Your Announcers and Open Thread For Night 31 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Montreal vs. Philadelphia, Game 2 (PHI Leads 1-0), 7:00 PM ET

National TV (US): VERSUS (HD)
Play by Play: Joe Beninati
Color: Daryl Reaugh
Reporter: Bob Harwood

National TV (Canada): CBC (HD)
Play by Play: Bob Cole
Color: Gary Galley
Inside the Glass: Glenn Healy
Reporter: Elliot Friedman

Chicago vs. San Jose, Game 2 (CHI Leads 1-0), 10:00 PM ET

National TV (US): VERSUS (HD)
Play by Play: Mike Emrick
Color: Eddie Olczyk
Reporter: Charissa Thompson

National TV (Canada): TSN (HD)
Play by Play: Chris Cuthbert
Inside the Glass: Pierre McGuire

VERSUS Draws Under a Million For Game 7

According to the NHL and VERSUS, the network drew an 0.94 national rating for Game #7 of the Flyers-Bruins series.  This was good for 694,507 households, and a total of 929,874 viewers.  There was no comparable telecast last season.  The game drew over 600,000 households and 1.1 million viewers from the local telecasts (CSN Philly – 11.6 rating, 342,000 households, 592,000 viewers; NESN – 13.2 rating, 318,000 households, 509,000 viewers), so a total of more than 2 million folks watched the game nationwide, in addition to 2.1 million in Canada.

EXCLUSIVE: VERSUS Overtime Policy For Tonight’s Conference Final Doubleheader

I know some of you may be concerned about how VERSUS handles this doubleheader.  VERSUS told Puck the Media their plan of action earlier today:

If Philadelphia/Montreal goes past 10, San Jose and Chicago markets will be switched over to see start of Sharks/Blackhawks game and then the rest of the country would join the San Jose/Chicago game at the conclusion of potential OT Philadelphia/Montreal game.

The Top 5 (and Bottom 5) Most-Viewed Games on VERSUS in Round 2

From Richard Sandomir, whose statistics accompany a great article on the network, comes the top five audiences of the Conference Semis.  Apparently it doesn’t include Game 7 of the Bruins/Flyers series:

  1. DET-SJ, Game 2: 1.77 Million
  2. DET-SJ, Game 1: 1.45 Million
  3. MTL-PIT, Game 7: 1.3 Million
  4. MTL-PIT, Game 5: 1.25 Million
  5. PIT-MTL, Game 4: 1.21 Million

And the bottom five:

  1. CHI-VAN, Game 6: 645,398 viewers
  2. CHI-VAN, Game 3: 682,000 viewers
  3. VAN-CHI, Game 5: 770,000 viewers
  4. PIT-MTL, Game 3: 775,767 viewers
  5. PIT-MTL, Game 6: 912,148 viewers

More Numbers From the NHL On VERSUS, TSN

NEW YORK (May 18, 2010) – VERSUS’ coverage of the first two rounds of 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs was the most-watched first two rounds on cable on record with an average of 775,000 viewers for the 54 telecasts (Stanley Cup Playoff cable viewership became available by Nielsen for the 1994 playoffs). The average viewership (1.041 million) for VERSUS’ coverage of the Conference Semifinal round also was the highest on record, surpassing all prior playoff seasons dating back to at least 1994.

The 1.0 HH rating and average viewership (1.041 million) for the second round were up 25 percent and 28 percent, respectively, over last year’s Conference Semifinal (.8 HH rating and 816,000 viewers). Throughout the duration of the Conference Semifinal, VERSUS ranked as a top 10 cable network in primetime viewership (8-11 p.m.) among Adults 18-49 and 25-54 and was one of the top five most-watched cable networks among Men 18-49 and 25-54.

VERSUS’ second-round successes came on the heels of the highest-rated and most-watched Conference Quarterfinal round on cable since 2001 and the most-watched among Men 25-54 on cable since 2000. The first round averaged a .7 HH rating and 595,000 viewers, up 75 percent and 35 percent, respectively, as compared to last year’s Conference Quarterfinal (.4 HH rating and 442,000 viewers), and led to VERSUS earning its most-watched April in primetime in network history.

TSN’s audience (2.1 million viewers) for the Philadelphia Flyers-Boston Bruins historic Game 7 was the highest audience ever recorded for an NHL game on TSN not involving a Canadian team. It was also the most-watched program on Canadian television on Friday in all key advertising demographics. Audience levels peaked at 3.95 million viewers in the third period.

Overall, TSN’s coverage of the second round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs attracted an average audience of 1.1 million viewers, 61 percent higher than the last year (681,000).

TV MILESTONES IN THE 2010 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

· Game 1 of the Blackhawks-Sharks series on NBC earned an 11.2 rating in Chicago, beating the Cubs, White Sox and Boston-Orlando broadcasts combined.

· The Flyers Game 7 victory over the Bruins on Friday night was the most watched Flyers game in Comcast SportsNet history with an 11.7 rating and 345,000 households, topping the previous record set two days earlier.

· CBC’s coverage of Game 7 between the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins drew an average audience of 4.24 million viewers, ranking as the sixth largest Stanley Cup Playoff audience in CBC history.

· On French language RDS, the Canadiens-Penguins Game 7 was the most-viewed NHL telecast in the network’s history with 2.69 million viewers.

· The game also scored on FSN Pittsburgh averaging a 26.4 HH rating, the highest-rated game ever on the network. At one point 43 percent of all households in the Pittsburgh DMA were tuned into FSN.

· There were three major Boston-area sports events televised on May 7 and Game 4 of the Bruins-Flyers series scored the best numbers, earning an 8.3 local Nielsen rating (328,000 viewers) on Versus in the Boston metered market besting the Yankees-Red Sox matchup on NESN, which earned a 6.3 local rating (223,000 viewers) to finish in second, while Game Three of the Cavaliers-Celtics NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals earned a 4.1 local rating (142,000 viewers) on ESPN.

· On Thursday April 22, the Blackhawks, with 278,000 viewers in Chicago, prevailed over some tough local competition: Bulls (255,000 viewers, playoff game against Cleveland and LeBron James), NFL Draft (138,000) and the Chicago Cubs vs. NY Mets (137,000 viewers).

· Combined, NBC and VERSUS averaged 742,000 viewers per telecast, the most for the first round since ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 averaged 750,000 viewers in 2000 and a 24-percent increase over last year.

· VERSUS’ average viewership of 595,000 for the first round of the playoffs was the best for the NHL on U.S. cable in nine years (ESPN/ESPN 2, 608,000 in 2001).

· Game 2 of the Detroit/San Jose series averaged 1.772 million viewers, making it VERSUS’ most-watched Conference Semifinal game in network history and the most-watched second-round game on cable in a decade (Colorado/Detroit, May 1, 2000 on ESPN, 1.926 million).

· The Washington-Montreal Game 7 was the highest rated (1.2 HH rating) and most watched (1.2 million viewers) Conference Quarterfinal game ever on VERSUS, and the most watched Conference Quarterfinal game on U.S. cable since Minnesota-Colorado in 2003 on ESPN.

· TSN’s audience of 2.8 million for the Washington-Montreal Game 7 was the highest audience ever recorded for an NHL game on TSN and was the most-watched program on Canadian television Wednesday night in all key demographics.

· The Montreal-Washington series ranks as the most-watched playoff series ever on TSN (any round) with an average audience of 1.8 million viewers over seven games.

DIGITAL STRATEGY PAYS DIVIDENDS

The NHL is engaging and connecting with more fans than ever on its digital platforms and the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs has continued that trend. Some highlights:

· For the first 34 days of the playoffs, video starts on NHL.com are up 153 percent over last year

· Unique visitors to NHL.com are up 31 percent

· Page views on NHL.com are up 50 percent

· Mobile page views are up 185 percent

· April was the most trafficked month in the history of NHL.com in terms of unique visitors surpassing 17 million

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE NHL’S RECORD-BREAKING BUSINESS SUCCESS IN 2009-10

· Corporate sponsorship was up 20 percent

· New League partners this season include Geico, Starwood Hotels, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, LG Electronics and Hershey’s Canada

· Ad spending on NHL® media increased by 37 percent over last season

· NHL.com ad revenue is up 50 percent over last year

· Revenue from big event platforms, led by the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®, are up 22 percent over last season

· Unique visitors to NHL.com surpassed last year’s record by 32 percent

· NHL Game Center Live™ subscriptions were up 25 percent

· NHL Network subscribers have increased by 104 percent

· Sales at SHOP.NHL.com were up 12 percent from last year’s record

· Viewership for NBC’s Game of the Week telecasts were up 13 percent

· Ratings for exclusive telecasts on Versus were up 20 percent

· NHL Mobile™ reached 1.6 million page views, an increase of 233 percent over last season

Source: Nielsen Media Research US and Nielsen Media Research Canada / BBM

VERSUS Has Largest Second Round Cable Audience in HISTORY

NEW YORK, N.Y. (May 18, 2010)-VERSUS, the fastest growing sports cable network in the country, averaged a 1.0 HH rating and 1.041 million viewers for its 2010 Conference Semifinal coverage, making it cable’s most-watched second round on record.  The average viewership surpasses the entire second round cable average of all prior Playoff seasons through 1994, which is the first Playoff season with available Nielsen electronic ratings and viewership history for the NHL on cable.

The HH rating and average viewership for the second round was up 25 percent and 28 percent, respectively, as compared to last year’s Conference Semifinals (.8 HH rating and 816,000 viewers).  Throughout the duration of the 2010 Semifinals, VERSUS also ranked as a top ten cable network in primetime viewership (8-11p.m.) among Adults 18-49 and 25-54 and was one of the top five most-watched cable networks among Men 18-49 and 25-54.

VERSUS’ first two rounds of 2010 Playoffs coverage, which featured 54 games, averaged 775,000 viewers making it the most-watched first two rounds on cable since NHL Playoff viewership became available by Nielsen in the 1993/94 season.  In the Conference Quarterfinal round the network’s coverage was non-exclusive and blacked out in local team markets and in the Conference Semifinals, VERSUS aired 10 games exclusively while the rest were blacked out locally.

VERSUS’ second-round successes came on the heels of the highest-rated and most-watched Conference Quarterfinal round on cable since 2001 and the most-watched among Men 25-54 on cable since 2000.  The first round averaged a .7 HH rating and 595,000 viewers which was up 75 percent and 35 percent, respectively, as compared to last year’s Conference Quarterfinals (.4 HH rating and 442,000 viewers), and led to VERSUS earning its most-watched April in primetime in network history.

VERSUS.com, the online destination for extensive information about the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, also continues to experience double-digit growth.  Since the start of the 2010 Playoffs, to date, as compared to the same time period last year, visitor’s average time on the site increased 35 percent, page views per visitor showed 15-percent growth and there has been a 20-percent spike in overall page views.

VERSUS, the fastest growing sports cable network in the country, prides itself on super-serving passionate sports fans across all platforms (VERSUS.com, VERSUS on Demand and VERSUS HD).  Now in more than 75 million homes, the network is the cable television home of the National Hockey League (NHL), IZOD IndyCar Series, Tour de France, World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and Professional Bull Riders (PBR).  VERSUS also airs NASCAR, NBA, UFC, college football and college basketball programming.  The network is home to the best outdoor programming on television and airs original programs not available anywhere else, including The Daily Line, Sports Soup and Sports Jobs with Junior Seau.  VERSUS, a wholly owned company of Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA, CMCSK), is distributed via cable systems and satellite operators throughout the United States.

YOUR TAKE: The Bob Cole Debate

That piece yesterday drew as many comments as any Puck the Media story ever.  I’d like to thank you for your time spent discussing by posting some of the most interesting of your reactions.

Sean Thompson felt that the choice of Cole’s assignment was for little more than travel semantics:

Might Bob Cole’s assignment have something to do with travel? I know Cole’s still based in Newfoundland and he might not feel up to the coast-to-coast flights he’d probably have to take for the Chicago-San Jose series.

Jeremy sees the Cole train continuing on from here:

CBC can’t reduce Cole from the equation any further because the network doesn’t have anyone else polished enough (apart from Hughson, of course) to call the big games. Neither Mark Lee nor Dean Brown have what it takes and CBC needs at least two top-tier broadcasting teams throughout the regular season and playoffs.

If the Canadiens make it to the Finals this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hughson cover their road games and Cole do the games in Montreal.

leafsfan1967 schooled us all on some history:

I can remember when the legendary Foster Hewitt was still going in his 70′s. He was well past his peak and yet was still THE voice of the Leafs on CKFH his own radio station. And he got to call the iconic Canada Russia series in 1972 on TV while Bob Cole did the radio broadcasts. Foster Hewitt finally was forced to retire when Harold Ballard sold Leafs radio rights to another station.

His son Bill Hewitt took over TV from his father round about 1960. The CBC began using Bob Cole in the 1970′s on the radio and a bit on TV sometimes replacing Bill Hewitt which was very hard for me to take. When Bill Hewitt gave up the play by play role because of ill health in 1981 Bob Cole took over his job. Growing up on the Hewitts and Danny Gallivan, it took me a very long time to get used to Bob Cole but eventually I did and he is still a wonderful play by play man.

As Jeremy notes, looking to the future the CBC does have a problem. Mark Lee is growing into a decent play by play guy but is a little ordinary. Dean Brown’s problem is that since he is the primary Ottawa play by play guy he is too identified with them. In retrospect the CBC made a big mistake when they let Cris Cuthbert go to TSN/CTV. CBC needs new blood on their broadcasts but good play by play guys don’t grow on trees.

Bottom line for me on Bob Cole is I hope he knows when he needs to go himself and is allowed to bow out gracefully.

Ryan suggested some more new blood for Hockey Night:

I like Cole–he makes mistakes, but he still gives a great sense of the flow of a game. My perfect world would have Hughson as the #1a and Cole as #1b of sorts…Hughson as the HNIC guy who gets the All-Star Game, finals, Winter Classic, all the ‘events’, while Cole is the hockey guy who doesn’t have to focus on shilling the importance of trumped-up games. Keep Cole in sort of the role Dick Enberg had on NFL broadcasts, only more important–he’s not the top guy, but he just oozes respectability.

As for CBC and looking to the future…it’s never something they’ve been good at, because it’s never something they’ve needed to be good at. Foster pretty much hand-picked his son as his successor, Danny Gallivan was around for decades, and even Bob Cole’s been a top national guy for going on 40 years. Whenever they’ve had younger talent waiting in the wings–Dan Kelly, Ken Daniels, Chris Cuthbert–they’ve always ended up going elsewhere before they could move into HNIC’s big chair.

When Cuthbert was let go, people had much the same debate they’ve been having in the comments here–who else could be number two and eventual number one? Mark Lee wasn’t anywhere near ready, and Don Wittman was too old to have a future ahead of him. So Hughson was brought in, over objections that–like what people are saying above about Dean Brown–he was too identifiable with one team (in his case, the Canucks). Which is odd, as it’s not like either Hewitt or Brian MacFarlane or Dick Irvin or Danny Gallivan or Jim Robson, the legends of HNIC, weren’t completely identified with particular teams.

I think CBC will need to look outside the network (not a big deal, as for a long time they had a policy of *exclusively* looking outside the network for new talent) for the next top-flight announcer. Jeff Marek’s clearly being groomed for something, and has done a bit of play-by-play, but is much better in studio. Bruce Rainnie and Elliotte Friedman aren’t any better than Lee or Brown, and Steve Armitage, while an interesting choice, is better suited to sports with a slower pace or single story.

I doubt Cuthbert would jump back just to get the job he had at CBC (especially now that TSN’s given him the Grey Cup carrot), and I don’t see Gord Miller leaving the network he’s been with forever. Joe Bowen certainly has the voice and the cachet, he’s up there in years, but if CBC can scoop him up, might be the best choice for the Leafs/7:00 game until a younger face is ready. I’ll throw in the Blues’ John Kelly as an outside shot because of his connections to HNIC’s past, no idea if he’d want the job though.

All in all, great stuff gang.  Feel free to continue your discussion of Cole’s work here.

BREAKING: NBC Draws 1.7 Rating For Blackhawks/Sharks, Down From 2009

With one slightly smaller hockey market in San Jose as an opponent, Game #1 of a Conference Final series featuring the Chicago Blackhawks debuted to lower numbers than last year, despite mastodonic ratings locally.  All this aside, yesterday’s tilt was the highest rated indoor hockey broadcast of the season on network TV.

NBC Sports told Puck the Media last night that their broadcast of Game #1 of the Blackhawks/Sharks series drew a 1.7 overnight rating, down 15% from last year’s telecast, Game#1 of the Blackhawks/Red Wings series.  It is, however, even with the comparable telecast two years ago, which is Game #5 of the Flyers/Penguins series.  It shows great strength in some of the leagues more western, less exposed (in San Jose’s case) markets.  However, Chi-town appears to be the star of the ratings story.  Sunday’s tilt drew an eye-popping, 11.2/27 overnight in the second city, up from a 7.7/19 for Game #1 in 2009.  Ratings are unavailable as of this time for the San Jose/San Francisco/Oakland market, but I’ll add them when they come in.  UPDATE: The game drew a 5.6 in the Bay Area.

To date, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are averaging a 1.4 overnight rating, up from a 1.3 at this point last season.  Overall, some positive signs for the NHL.  While they got destroyed by the NBA in a similar timeslot, they beat PGA golf , and I wouldn’t be shocked if they had comparable, if not better numbers than FOX’s MLB coverage this weekend.  It’ll be interesting to see if there is growth from this week to next on NBC’s telecasts of the series.

2010 Playoff Overnights on NBC

4/17/10 – BOS vs. BUF, Game 2: 1.2
4/18/10 – PHX vs. DET, Game 3: 1.5
4/24/10 – NSH vs. CHI, Game 5: 1.3
4/25/10 – PHX vs. DET, Game 6: 1.3
5/1/10 – PHI vs. BOS, Game 1: 1.6
5/2/10 – MTL vs. PIT, Game 2: 1.6
5/16/10 – CHI vs. SJ, Game 1: 1.7
Average: 1.4

2009 Playoff Overnights
4/18/09 – NYR vs. WSH, Game 2: 1.0
4/19/09 – PIT vs. PHI, Game 3: 1.7
4/25/09 – PIT vs. PHI, Game 6: 1.2
4/26/09 – WSH vs. NYR, Game 6: 1.0
5/2/09 – PIT vs. WSH, Game 1: 1.4
5/3/09 – ANA vs. DET, Game 2: 1.3
5/17/10 – CHI vs. DET, Game 1: 2.0
5/24/10 – DET vs. CHI, Game 4: 1.5
Average: 1.3