Ratings Extra: Phoenix-Boston Draws Even With Premiere Games Despite Competition

We seem to be getting ratings for VERSUS games more consistently this season, thanks to reader and friend of the blog Son of the Bronx. Ratings Extra will be a semi-regular post breaking down the latest ratings on the network.

VERSUS continued to put up tepid numbers for the NHL Premiere series, with live broadcasts of the league’s overseas excursion, but it saw some encouraging numbers from a game on Saturday, despite competition from a local regional sports network and an early timeslot for viewers in the other.

The network’s broadcast of the first Coyotes-Bruins game at Noon ET/10 AM AZT on Saturday drew an 0.1 HH rating and 116,000 viewers, ahead of all but one of VERSUS’ three other NHL Premiere telecasts (SJ/CBJ Friday – 120,000 viewers) but still fairly low, considering the game had the advantage of airing on a weekend when most were home and available to watch. The numbers may have been cannibalized by the fact that NESN in the New England region was allowed to produce their own local telecast, and that the game was airing in the early morning for much of the country, including the Phoenix market.

The game drew 64,000 viewers – about half – among the desired Adults 18-49 demographic, though only 8,000 among Women 18-49 – a demo the NHL has been doing pretty well with until now this season. Hockey Central airing until 3PM ET after the game drew 62,000 total viewers.

VERSUS had a full day of sports, with a UFL game and a Pac-10 game afterward. I know where you think I’m going with this … no, the UFL did not outdraw the NHL On VERSUS. The network’s telecast of Florida-Hartford at 3PM ET drew 48,000 total viewers, not even beating Hockey Central. The game drew 27,000 viewers among Adults 18-49 and 10,000 Women 18-49. The female total was more than the hockey game by 2,000.

The network did fare better than hockey with their telecast of Oregon St.-Arizona in college football Saturday night. The 7PM ET broadcast scored an 0.4 HH rating and 554,000 total viewers, which will go down as VERSUS’ second most-viewed show of the week behind the opening night game between the Penguins and Flyers. The game scored 191,000 viewers in the Adults 18-49 demo, with 58,000 of them women. The 18-49 numbers among adults and women were well below the Pens-Flyers game (446,000 A18-49; 148,000 W18-49) and even the Blackhawks-Avalanche game that followed (303,000 A18-49; 86,000 W18-49). Overall, VERSUS can say it had a pretty decent weekend, with three primetime programs drawing either decent total viewer numbers or solid demo performances. There should be some numbers on Colorado-Detroit last night either later today or tomorrow.

NHL On VERSUS Audience Levels For Opening Weekend

Thursday, October 7
Minnesota vs. Carolina – 80,000 (0.1)
7:00 Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh – 730,000 (0.4)
Chicago vs. Colorado – 430,000 (0.3)

Friday, October 8
Carolina vs. Minnesota – 95,000 (0.1)
Columbus vs. San Jose – 120,000 (0.1)

Saturday, October 9
Phoenix vs. Boston – 116,000 (0.1)

2009 VERSUS Opening Weekend Numbers

Thursday, October 1
Washington vs. Boston – 501,000
San Jose vs. Colorado – 332,000

Friday, October 2
Florida vs. Chicago – 100,000
St. Louis vs. Detroit – 278,000

NHL Net Announces AHL Slate For the Season

NEW YORK (October 13, 2010) – The NHL Network U.S. will put the developing talents of many of the game’s top young players on display this season when it broadcasts 10 American Hockey League games in partnership with the AHL. Beginning on Oct. 17, when the Toronto Marlies play host to the Binghamton Senators, the NHL Network will broadcast 10 Sunday afternoon games. The AHL is the sole primary development league for all 30 NHL Clubs and over 85 percent of current NHL players are AHL alumni – including 2010 Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres, who was 2005 AHL goaltender of the year for Rochester, and 2010 Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks, who played two AHL seasons with Norfolk. In addition to Toronto and Binghamton, future NHL Network broadcasts of AHL games will feature the Hamilton Bulldogs, Abbotsford Heat, Manitoba Moose and the inaugural edition of the Oklahoma City Barons. The NHL Network’s U.S. schedule of AHL broadcasts: Day Date Visiting Team Home Team Time (ET) Sun Oct. 17, 2010 Binghamton Toronto 1pm Sun Oct. 24, 2010 Oklahoma City Hamilton 1pm Sun Nov. 21, 2010 Hamilton Toronto 1pm Sun Dec. 12, 2010 Toronto Hamilton 1pm Sun Jan. 16, 2011 Toronto Abbotsford 2pm Sun Jan. 23, 2011 Abbotsford Manitoba 1pm Sun Feb. 27, 2011 Manitoba Toronto 1pm Sun Mar. 6, 2011 Hamilton Toronto TBD Sun Mar. 27, 2011 Abbotsford Manitoba 1pm Sun Apr. 3, 2011 Manitoba Toronto TBD

Hockey Night Premieres to Record Audiences

CBC’s HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA attracted record audiences for its Saturday night debut this weekend. An average audience of 2.251 million viewers tuned in to the first game of the evening featuring Toronto taking on Ottawa and Montreal taking on Pittsburgh, up 34% from the 09/10 Saturday night season premiere of the program. The evening’s second game from Vancouver against L.A., attracted an average of 1.430 million viewers, up 26% from the first Saturday night broadcast last season. Both are the highest Saturday night debut audiences in the program’s history. Hockey Tonight drew an average audience of 569,000.

On Thursday, an average of 1.968 million viewers tuned in to see the Toronto Maple Leafs take on long-time Original Six rivals the Montreal Canadiens while in the nightcap, 1.013 million viewers saw the hometown Oilers defeat the Flames.  The evening’s pre-game show, NHL Face-Off, drew an audience of 601,000.

CBC/Radio-Canada is Canada’s national public broadcaster and one of its largest cultural institutions. The Corporation is a leader in reaching Canadians on new platforms and delivers a comprehensive range of radio, television, Internet, and satellite-based services. Deeply rooted in the regions, CBC/Radio-Canada is the only domestic broadcaster to offer diverse regional and cultural perspectives in English, French and eight Aboriginal languages.

Hockey Central Draws More Viewers Than Either VERSUS Telecast on Friday

The NHL Premiere games continued to show a loss of interest from the previous year, and this time in direct comparison to last year’s numbers.

VERSUS’ broadcast of the second game of the Minnesota-Carolina series in Helsinki, Finland drew 95,000 viewers in it’s Noon ET timeslot on Friday. While this was up 16% from the game airing at the same time on Thursday, it was still down 5% from the comparable telecast last year (100,000 viewers for Blackhawks/Panthers on 10/2/09). The game scored an 0.1 HH rating, and 50,000 viewers in the Adults 18-49 demographic, and 10,000 Women 18-49 tuned in.

The second game of the day on VERSUS, Columbus-San Jose from Stockholm, Sweden drew 120,000 viewers. This was down from the comparable year-ago telecast by 65% (278,000 for Red Wings/Blues on 10/2/09). The game also drew an 0.1 HH rating, with 64,000 among Adults 18-49 and 15,000 among Women 18-49. Columbus-San Jose grew from it’s Carolina-Minnesota lead-in by 21%.

The curious note is that the brief Hockey Central that aired in between Carolina-Minnesota scored 125,000 viewers, more than either game. 52,000 Adults 18-49 watched the broadcast, with 23,000 among Women 18-49. It’s only 40,000 viewers short of a Hockey Central that aired at 6:30 PM ET Thursday broadcast that aired before the Penguins-Flyers game.

(Source: Son of the Bronx)

Your Announcers and Open Thread For Avalanche-Red Wings

Colorado vs. Detroit, 7:00 PM ET, VERSUS (HD)
Play by Play:
John Forslund
Color: Eddie Olczyk
Reporter: Billy Jaffe

VERSUS Debuts Sweet New Ads in Multiple NHL Cities

VERSUS has begun a “Hockey Lives On” themed campaign, and as a part of it has been appealing to local fans in various hockey markets. The goal is clearly, from my perspective, to let people in different cities (the campaign is currently running in Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, Chicago and Minneapolis) know that VERSUS is where they can catch their local team on a national level, and then get them hooked on watching the network on a more full time basis. It’s very cool, eye-catching stuff.

More photos from VERSUS’ campaign are after the jump.

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Puck Daddy Hits the Radio

TORONTO, October 12th, 2010 – Score Media Inc. (TSX: SCR) today announces that Greg Wyshynski, a.k.a “Puck Daddy”, has officially joined its line-up of broadcast talent. Greg Wyshynski, the editor of Puck Daddy, Yahoo! Sports’ infamous and humorous hockey blog, today becomes a member of theScore with a live show on theScore Satellite Radio on SIRIUS Satellite Radio channel 98. Puck Daddy Radio will be hosted by Greg Wyshynski along with theScore’s Rob Pizzo, and will air Monday to Friday from 1-2 p.m. ET. Each episode will be rebroadcast at 5 p.m. ET daily and will be streamed on both theScore.com and on Yahoo.com’s Puck Daddy blog. Since 2008, Puck Daddy has blended in-depth analysis of the NHL with a humorous look at hockey culture. It is considered the leading hockey blog in North America for its innovation and influence. Award-winning editor, Greg Wyshynski, has written for many leading publications including Deadspin, AOL FanHouse, the Hockey News, The Fourth Period Magazine and SportsFan Magazine. He also spent 9 years as an editor for The Connection Newspapers of Northern Virginia, a chain of 16 weekly publications. Wyshynski frequently appears as a guest on radio stations around North America and through his many years as a hockey authority, he has developed an enormous following of devoted fans. His weekly play-off show and various other appearances on theScore during the 2009-2010 NHL season got rave reviews and left fans wanting more. “After the success of last season’s Puck Daddy play-off show, we discovered that fans wanted more and that a weekly show was simply not enough so we made the decision to create a dedicated, daily show that will give both Puck Daddy and his fans an even louder voice in the hockey world,” says Mike Gentile, Program Director, theScore Satellite Radio. With Wyshynski’s wit and in-depth hockey knowledge, Puck Daddy Radio on SIRIUS channel 98 will be the go-to destination for hockey fans across North America. “My goal is to take the insight and entertainment from Puck Daddy and bring it to theScore Satellite Radio. It’ll be exciting, informative and unpredictable,” says Greg Wyshynski, Host, Puck Daddy Radio. “I think theScore is a perfect partner in bringing the nonsense we do on the blog to an unsuspecting public and I look forward to interacting with the Puck Daddy audience on a more personal level as scary as that could get.”

The T. Ocho Show Premieres Tomorrow on VERSUS

NEW YORK, N.Y. (October 11, 2010)-From T.J. Ward’s “cheap shot” to critiquing Lady Gaga’s meat dress, Terrell Owens and Chad OchoCinco have very strong opinions on every topic in sports and pop culture. For the past month the Bengals receiving pair have given viewers a sneak peak on The Daily Line at the over-the-top antics sure to come on The T.Ocho Show. The wait is over as the new series will debut on VERSUS tomorrow night at 10:30 p.m. ET. The show, which will air regularly on Tuesday nights at 10:30 p.m. ET, will feature T.O. and OchoCinco going head-to-head to discuss the hottest news in and around the NFL, sports in general and pop culture. Kevin Frazier, who is currently the weekend host and correspondent for Entertainment Tonight, will serve as the show’s host to referee the on-screen mayhem between the two stars. Frazier has more than 15-years of on-air experience across various networks, including ESPN, where he hosted SportsCenter as well as FOX Sports Net, where he hosted FOX Sports News and served as a sideline reporter for NFL games.

Making Peace with the Painstakingly Dull Charm of NHL On the Fly

NHL COO John Collins has vowed to turn the NHL Network into something better. There’s certainly a lot of looking up the league-sanctioned station needs to do to put itself on par with the sublime MLB Network, the dull but well-produced NFL Network, and the I-don’t-watch-but-when-I-flip-past-it-looks-better NBA TV. You’d think that would start by remaking the league’s flagship show, NHL On the Fly, the nightly highlights whip around the league, eventually ending in the 1AM On the Fly: Final, which recaps the day’s action.

Well, for those of you wondering if they did that in time for this season … they haven’t. The show is still ridiculously boring. The exception, of course is the game highlights, which remain terrific because they show the broadcast highlights with the play-by-play and color commentator without talking heads spouting catchphrases over. It’s the beauty of the game in highlight form. We can talk about this all night, but for now, let’s show you the game with some peace. How every other league-specific network doesn’t have a show like this is beyond me.

Aside from that, though, I’ve yet to see a big enough change in On the Fly’s banter portion of the show, which needs to get more in-depth, more x’s and o’s, more entertaining … just more something. Dan Pollard, a network original, was let go over the summer for former ESPNews anchor David Amber, who might as well be a carbon copy of both Pollard and fellow On the Fly host Brian Duff. They’re all polite, unfunny hockey fans who should probably be hosting a newscast instead of a hockey show. I know John Buccigross is a polarizing name in some hockey circles, but the man can carry an entire hockey show on his back. Why will no one allow him to do it in exchange for these boring dudes?

To be fair, it’s Amber, Duff and Bill Patrick on Hockey Central’s job to be the set-up man for his analysts. Again, NHL Network hasn’t improved. Other than Mike Johnson, there seems little analysis worth listening to. I sure hope I get to hear Bobby Holik, Brad May and Kevin Weekes (all scheduled to appear regularly on the show at some point) soon, because guys like Gary Green just do not cut it any more. They overstate the obvious, pound home things you’ve heard a million times before, and just restate what they’re trying to say over and over again, like I did just within the context of that sentence. There needs to be some fresh blood, and I hope to evaluate it soon.

It’s okay, however, if On the Fly isn’t great as a studio show. It remains a fantastic highlight showcase for the league. It gets out of it’s own way and let’s the players show you, almost like a little child walking up to you with his art project and quietly waiting for your approval. That’s what makes the show worthwhile. However, it’d be nice if I could stick with the show for the portion after the game highlights have ended, which can total more than 30 minutes some nights. Regardless, I’ll still watch On the Fly, because there’s nothing like it on TV, for better and worse.

PTM Interview: Michael McKinley, Author of Hockey: A People’s History

I’ll admit, getting ready for this interview intimidated the hell out of me. This book intimidated the hell out of me, it’s a big one. I’ll tell you, however, that while getting through Hockey: A People’s History is time consuming, it’s worth every second. The companion to an epic CBC mini-series, the book chronicles the sport’s growth from it’s creation to modern times, through NHL classics, international drama and more. I recently spoke to the amiable

Michael McKinley, who originally authored the tome (with, as he’ll acknowledge, tons of help) in 2006 (the softcover was released recently and will be added to the book club on the sidebar, you can currently purchase it here) on the phone from where he currently resides in New York, about the book. He’s much, much smarter than I am, about the game and in all respects. The Oxford grad and one-time South Park and Due South producer spoke about growing up in Vancouver, following hockey in New York and a Canadian perspective on the Miracle on Ice.

Steve Lepore: First, a little background about yourself as a hockey fan, how you became a hockey fan and how you got into writing about hockey?

Michael McKinley: I grew up in Vancouver and you know, even though it’s on the west coast and you don’t get a lot of natural ice in the winter, played hockey as a kid on the street (ball hockey, roller hockey, etc.) and followed the Vancouver Canucks, and follow them now even living in New York City. They still cause me grief. I also have the pleasure of following the Devils, I go to Devils games and like them a lot. I was always interested in the game, partly because I’m Canadian – we’re genetically wired – but just the combination of skill and speed, it makes for a beautiful thing. Perhaps, the beautiful game. I know soccer claims that title, but I think it’s hockey.

I went to England for university and missed the game very much and when I had a chance to write a book with the Hockey Hall of Fame and sifting through the facts and archives I realized how much I didn’t know, and I started getting into all the material there and learning all I didn’t know made me realize I had to write about hockey.

SL: So is there any point where you said “Okay, I’m willing to put the entire history of hockey into a book?”

MM: There was, actually. I wrote a book before the one that is out now, and it was called Putting a Roof on Winter. My idea was that, because I couldn’t find a book that told the story primarily focusing on the NHL, the first indoor game to now … I wrote one. The CBC in Canada was doing a one-hour documentary on Rocket Richard, and they realized, along with the Hall of Fame that they had too much material to put into an hour. So they thought, why don’t they do a long show on the history of hockey? They picked out Putting a Roof on Winter and said, “Yeah, this is what we wanna do” and had me write the book to go along with the TV series Hockey: A People’s History.

So, I essentially wrote Putting a Roof on Winter because I wanted something that told, you know, the whole story of the North American game from the first indoor game in 1875, and that led to the book that’s out now.

SL: Just how long an undertaking was this?

MM: It was actually faster than you would think, and that was because it was part of a TV series. The TV series was 10 hours long, divided into one hour segments and with each segment having it’s own producer and a couple of researchers. It was like working with a team of 30 people to write this book. They would send me their research, and the researchers would go into their archives and do phoners and go visit old retired players or officials in the way I couldn’t. They’d bring me their research and I’d send them mine, so we kind of cross pollinated one another. My stuff wound up in the TV show, and their research wound up in the book.

It was a whole team effort, because if I had to do it myself, to go around to all these places and talk to all these people, I’d probably still be writing it.

SL: Being from Vancouver, there’s so much hockey history coming from there, were you able to draw on a lot of the things from the 20’s and 30’s that come from the western hockey leagues and get that in?

MM: The west coast is actually sort of interesting when it comes to hockey. The Patrick brothers go out there from Montreal, their dad owns a lumber business in the forests of British Columbia and sells the business and makes a half million dollars which, in 1910, is a considerably larger amount of money than it is now. His son convinced him to invest it in hockey on the pacific coast of North America. They had a hockey background in Quebec and the guys had played, they put in artificial ice in Vancouver and built a 10,000 seat arena which was the largest arena in the world. They put ice hockey there and they innovate like crazy.

They introduce things like the blue line, line changers, as back then players played the entire 60-minute game. They introduce numbers on jerseys, they introduce playoffs. There was no playoff system before the Patricks introduced one on the pacific coast. Of course, this benefitted every other team sport and major league sport, that was their idea. They also let goalies fall down to make saves, because that too wasn’t allowed until they did it out west. It was a great hockey innovation by these two guys. They were not part of the NHL, didn’t compete for the Stanley Cup.

The great bar bet you can make about which United States team was the first to win the Stanley Cup. You might think maybe the Bruins or the Rangers, but it was actually the Seattle Metropolitans of 1917, and they were one of the Patricks’ teams. All of that stuff really influenced, it changed the game, and I brought a lot of that to this because there were a lot of stories to tell. I mean, inventing the playoffs alone would be a great story, but all the things the Patricks have done were astonishing when you think of it.

SL: What was the thing that in all the research that ended up in the book surprised you the most, that you didn’t know beforehand and really shocked you when you found out?

MM: Yeah, there was one thing that actually really surprised me. Well there were lots of things, but there was one thing that is quite a long argument and its still playing out today. Back in the 1930’s, there’s this guy Mike Buckna who grows up in Trail, BC. Part of the province’s very strong hockey history. He was the son of Czechoslovakian immigrants, and he decides to go back to the old country to look around. One day, he’s waiting for a train and reads in the paper that the Czechoslovakian national team is holding tryouts. He goes and they can’t believe what drops from the heavens, this guy is thousands of times better than what the Czechs had playing for them. One of them had a wooden leg.

He’s really good and they sign him up, he ends up playing for and coaching the team. He teaches them the hockey he learned in Trail, BC. World War II comes along, Buckna goes back to North America, comes back to Czechoslovakia after the War, coaches the team again and wins a World Championship.

Now were beginning the Cold War, and the Russians – the Soviets – had played versions of hockey before, now the air of competition between the Communist Bloc and the free world was coming to be, and they want to be good at this winter sport, ice hockey. So who do they learn it from? Their satellite state, Czechoslovakia, who learned it from this guy from Trail, BC. Of course, when the Russians finally come over to play the NHL in 1972 in the Summit Series, which was a huge deal because North America had always been sending amateurs to play in the USSR, never pros before that, and they’d been getting beaten. This was one we could know is to let our best players play against the Russians.

Team Canada played the Russians, and they were very cocky and thought they would walk over them. Of course, they didn’t, and in the eight game series it came down to the last minutes of the final game of a great, dramatic series. People were marveling at the time of the brand of hockey the Russians were playing – creative, intelligent, skillful, free-wheeling kind of game that was also disciplined – and of course, the grand irony was that once upon a time the game we played in North America was brought to them by this guy in Trail.

I didn’t know that before and, you know, it still plays out in the NHL today with the European players coming over who are always noted for their skill. Its rare that a European comes over and is primarily an enforcer. They might become that, but they don’t come as that. So, this can all be traced back to the legacy of this guy from the mountains of BC and that was an astonishing discovery.

SL: As a Canadian, does it surprise you at all at the amount of American fervor there is for the 1980 team. I know there’s a lot of that in the book, and does it surprise you just how much admiration there is for that team.

MM: It actually doesn’t, because again, still part of that same wave of Cold War ideology that was in existence in 1980 from 1972. The Red Machine, the Russians represented all that was wrong in the world and I think it was a chance for the United States to come up against them since it hadn’t happened on the battlefield. They do it on the ice and it was a real David and Goliath battle, and David wins! I think that it was a huge national moment in the United States. In fact, I think it was a turning point for American-born NHL players, and that was a turning point in my interest in the NHL, was that Miracle on Ice. It was one of the defining moments of hockey in the United States, which has got such a great hockey tradition.

SL: After this book, how do you go about just writing about hockey anymore now that you’ve literally compiled almost everything?

MM: Funny you should ask. What I did was I started writing novels [laughs]. I’m finishing the second one in the series, and it’s called Penalty Killing. I started making it up, is what happened [laughs]. They’re crime novels, and they’ve got a protagonist who used to be the great hope for the fictional New York St. Patricks, but he was cheap-shotted and suffered a career ending head injury. In the first novel he gets framed for murder, so he’s got to solve a murder to save his life. One thing leads to another, obviously there’s a second one, so he survives to another day. [laughs]