NBC Promotes Pens/Caps Sunday, VERSUS Next Week

NEW YORK – February 3, 2011 – In a rematch of the teams who competed in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, the Washington Capitals host the Pittsburgh Penguins indoors at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. this Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. NBCSPORTS.COM will also stream the game live.


On New Year’s Day, the Capitals defeated the Penguins, 3-1, in the much-anticipated outdoor game played at Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are competing Sunday in Super Bowl XLV. The Capitals-Penguins outdoor classic was the most-watched NHL regular-season game in 36 years with 4.5 million viewers.


Mike “Doc” Emrick (play-by-play), Eddie Olczyk (analyst) and Pierre McGuire (inside-the-glass reporter) call the action. McGuire will pull double duty, hosting NBC’s studio show alongside analyst Mike Milbury on site at Verizon Center in Washington, DC.


EMRICK: “It’s safe to say the Penguins bring out the best in the Capitals, who got their game straight against the Pens during the Winter Classic…The Penguins are an interesting team but not so much for the reasons that the public generally thinks about, which is as a shoot-the-lights-out type of team. This team is built around the strength of the center position but has been able to succeed despite significant injuries to the position. There’s a lot of character on that team. They’ve persevered with a lot of team toughness and by tightening up their defense.”


NBCSPORTS.COM: NBCSPORTS.COM will stream live all “NHL Game of the Week” broadcasts this season, including Penguins-Capitals. It will again offer “Star-cam,” which follows a marquee player in the game. Following the game, NBCSPORTS.COM will present bonus material, including “Star-cam” and “Net-cam” and bonus analysis from NBC Sports commentators. The NHL on NBC also has its own Facebook page. For NHL news and behind-the-scenes videos and photos, click here HTTP://WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/NHLONNBC


2011 WINTER CLASSIC VIEWERSHIP: The 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, which featured the Penguins hosting the Capitals on New Year’s Day on NBC in primetime, was the most-watched Winter Classic ever and the most-watched NHL regular-season game in 36 years.


Despite changing the start time from 1 p.m. ET to 8 p.m. ET due to weather, which saw the game to compete against other NHL games involving eight U.S. markets, 4.5 million viewers watched the Capitals defeat the Penguins, 3-1, at Heinz Field, home of the Steelers, surpassing the 4.4 million who watched the 2009 Winter Classic that saw the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings defeat the Chicago Blackhawks, 6-4, at iconic Wrigley Field as the most-watched NHL regular-season game since Feb. 23, 1975 (5.4 million, Philadelphia-New York Rangers on NBC).


HOCKEY DAY IN AMERICA: The NHL and NBC Sports will celebrate America’s passion for hockey with the inaugural “Hockey Day in America” presented by McDonald’s on Sunday, February 20.


With six hours of coverage (Noon-6 p.m. ET) – which will include four NHL games – hosted from McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Chicago’s Millennium Park, NBC Sports will tell the stories that demonstrate this country’s affinity for hockey – from hockey parents who chauffeur pee wees to practice before sunrise to the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships in Minnesota, played by amateurs amidst arctic temperatures, to ‘celebrity’ hockey played by actors and producers in Los Angeles to inner-city hockey in Washington, D.C. that has made a difference in the lives of countless children and young adults.


NBC Sports will broadcast four NHL games featuring eight teams from some of the most avid U.S. hockey markets. The first three games will be broadcast regionally with staggered starts. All viewers will begin the day with the same game before some viewers are taken to their regional game. The staggered starts allow for live look-ins of the other regionalized games during intermissions. The fourth game, Pittsburgh at Chicago, will be broadcast nationally. All games will be streamed live on NBCSPORTS.COM.


The three regional games are Detroit at Minnesota, Philadelphia at New York Rangers, and Washington at Buffalo. Exact start times and commentators for the regional games will be announced at a later date.


“Hockey Day in America” schedule (all times ET):


Noon “Hockey Day in America” coverage begins


12:35 p.m. First regional game begins


12:40 p.m. Second regional game begins


12:45 p.m. Third regional game begins


3:30 p.m. Pittsburgh at Chicago (national)


FLEX SCHEDULING & CONSISTENT 12:30 PM ET START TIME: Again this year, “Game of the Week” broadcasts will consistently start at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sundays (except for “Hockey Day in America” on Sunday, February 20, Noon-6 p.m. ET).


For the fourth straight season, the NHL and NBC Sports will utilize flex scheduling and will be able to select from up to four games on Sunday afternoons. At least 13 days prior to the scheduled games, the NHL and NBC Sports will announce one of those games as the “Game of the Week” to be broadcast during the NBC Sports window. The other games will remain available to the teams’ regional carrier but will not be televised during NBC Sports’ broadcast window.




(All games announced at least 13 days prior)


Sunday, Feb. 13, 12:30 p.m. ET


Boston @ Detroit (flexed)


Sunday, Feb. 20, Noon-6 p.m. ET


“Hockey Day in America”


Washington @ Buffalo (regional)


Detroit @ Minnesota (regional)


Philadelphia @ N.Y. Rangers (regional)


Pittsburgh @ Chicago (national)


Sunday, Mar. 6, 12:30 p.m. ET


Philadelphia @ N.Y. Rangers


Buffalo @ Minnesota


Sunday, Mar. 13, 12:30 p.m. ET


Chicago @ Washington


Los Angeles @ Dallas


Sunday, Mar. 20, 12:30 p.m. ET


N.Y. Rangers @ Pittsburgh


New Jersey @ Columbus


Sunday, Apr. 3, 12:30 p.m. ET


N.Y. Rangers @ Philadelphia


Minnesota @ Detroit


Tampa Bay @ Chicago


Sunday, Apr. 10, 12:30 p.m. ET


Detroit @ Chicago


Boston @ New Jersey


Dallas @ Minnesota


Pittsburgh @ Atlanta


NEXT WEEK ON VERSUS: VERSUS, the exclusive cable television home of the NHL and a member of the NBC Sports Group, super-serves hockey fans with 79 regular-season games this season. Following is next week’s game schedule (all times ET):


Monday N.Y. Rangers @ Detroit 7:30 p.m.


Tuesday Buffalo @ Tampa Bay 7:30 p.m.


Wednesday Montreal @ Boston 7 p.m.



VERSUS Name Change Will Be a Variation on NBC, Is “Months away”

From Bob Fernandez of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Comcast Corp.’s 24-hour sports network, Versus, will fall under the direct management of Jon Litner, a former ABC Sports executive who has run Comcast’s regional sports networks, and will stay in Philadelphia.


Some employees had been concerned that Versus – or even the regional sports networks – might relocate to New York after control of their businesses was taken over by entertainment and news giant NBC Universal Inc. because of the company’s joint venture with Comcast.


In an announcement Wednesday naming its top executives, NBC Sports said Litner would be president of Versus and SportsNet and would be based here.


Dick Ebersol, the longtime head of NBC Sports, said in an interview Wednesday that he considered the Comcast regional sports networks now part of NBC Universal’s “crown jewels.” He said he expected to bolster Versus by acquiring the rights to more sports for it, though he declined to say which sports.


Ebersol also indicated that the company would change the Versus name to some variation reflecting the NBC brand, but he said the change was months away.


Comcast-NBCU Merger Happens Just as VERSUS’ Exclusive Negotiating Period with NHL Ends

From David Shoalts of The Globe & Mail:

The window on the exclusive negotiating period between the NHL and its American cable television network, Versus, closed Monday, although it does not mean the end to their relationship.


Since the window closed amid a host of changes at the network – from an executive shakeup on Tuesday to the earlier completion of the takeover of NBC by Versus’s parent company, Comcast Corp. – the relationships between the NHL and its U.S. broadcasters are now “complicated,” according to a league executive who wished to remain anonymous.


What complicates matters is that NBC happens to be the NHL’s over-the-air carrier in the U.S., and now both of the league’s American television broadcasters are owned by the same company. Both contracts expire at the end of this season.


NBC has its own window for exclusive negotiations with the NHL, and those talks are believed to be under way. Thus, the expiration of Versus’s period to negotiate exclusively with the NHL does not mean the league is going to immediately throw its U.S. television rights up for bids from competing networks such as ESPN, which is supposed to have at least some interest.


Broadcast News: The East Has Had the Same Teams in the Top 8 Since Late November

NOTE: Every week or so, I post the potential playoff match-ups, what series the American networks would take, and a “mock draft” of the Canadian network. Remember, it is just for fun, and feel free to post your own guesses in the comments.

The headline is something I learned from the typically excellent Devils broadcast on MSG Tuesday. Also, I didn’t really have anything to lead with this time.

The Match-ups

Eastern Conference

#8 Atlanta vs. #1 Philadelphia
#7 NY Rangers vs. #2 Tampa Bay
#6 Montreal vs. #3 Boston
#5 Washington vs. #4 Pittsburgh

Western Conference

#8 Chicago vs. #1 Vancouver
#7 Phoenix vs. #2 Detroit
#6 Anaheim vs. #3 Dallas
#5 San Jose vs. #4 Nashville

U.S. Networks

NBC: Washington-Pittsburgh is, of course, an NBC dream. To the point where I’m baffled the NHL hasn’t been able to figure out a way to let NBC do two games in two afternoons. Like, have Game 1 on Saturday afternoon and Game 2 on Sunday, then play 3-4 Tuesday and Thursday, followed by Games 5 & 6 the next Saturday and Sunday on NBC. Don’t you all think this is something that maybe got suggested by the network the last time these two teams matched up in the post-season? Especially when there were fewer series to pit it against. Watch them figure out a way to do at least once, since the Pens and Caps seemed destined to dance at some point this post-season, especially in a post-24/7 universe. Can you imagine HBO begging for a sequel to do during the playoffs?

For the other series, Phoenix-Detroit was a match-up that drew surprisingly high ratings for NBC and VERSUS last April, so that could be seen as an option. Perhaps New York-Tampa Bay or Atlanta-Philadelphia have some appeal to NBC as well, especially if things get ugly in Phoenix. I can imagine that if something drastic had to happen in Phoenix (not that I claim to have any knowledge about that situation at all) that the NHL would want to keep the Coyotes off of their broadcast network during the post-season.

VERSUS: It’ll be all Sidney and Alex, all the time, or at least when NBC doesn’t have it for VERSUS. I’m sure Boston and Montreal also has an “Original Six” appeal to them, as well as the Stamkos-led Lightning vs. the big market Rangers. I can’t imagine the Flyers-Thrashers series getting many games on VERSUS, especially when Flyers-Devils was completely ignored by the Comcast-owned network last Spring. Then again, maybe having the new market in the playoffs makes the difference.

Out west, the problem remains that only one Pacific or Mountain time zone team is currently a Top 4 seed in the Western Conference. Chicago-Vancouver has obvious appeal because of the rematch (again) factor. Phoenix-Detroit will likely be shown when that series is out in Phoenix. Dallas-Anaheim has some flexible timeslots, and will likely have some appeal in the Pacific Time Zone. San Jose-Nashville looks like it would be the odd man out in this situation, but may get some weekend play.

Canadian Networks Mock Draft

#6 (CBC): NYR-TB
#7-8 (TSN): SJ-NSH and ATL-PHI

Question for the readers: Does anyone envision CBC not electing to air Montreal-Boston, instead taking a flier on Penguins-Capitals? Probably not, because it’s against Boston especially, but it’d still be interesting to see if there’d be an uproar over this. I imagine questions over CBC’s place as a public broadcaster in Canada would come into question if they were openly choosing an all-American Playoff series when one featuring a Canadian team was available. Otherwise, there’s very little to be debated here.

A Few More Ratings Notes on the All-Star Weekend

Just a few more things gathered from PIFeedback.com on how well the weekend did for the sport:

  • The Super-Skills showdown on Saturday did well among men in particular. The drew an 0.6 rating among Adults 18-49, an 0.7 among Men 18-34, an 0.8 among Men 18-49 and Men 25-54. It was the 7th highest rated program in the Men 18-49 demographic on cable in primetime. Among Adults 18-49, the Super-Skills was 18th on cable for the night in the demo. The Skills did better in viewers than almost all of ESPN2’s NCAA Basketball coverage for the day, as well as the Winter X Games coverage on ESPN, and the 2011 Australian Open Women’s and Men’s Finals, though those matches aired in late night timeslots.
  • The Fantasy Draft on Friday did well among men as well. The Draft scored an 0.3 rating among Adults 18-49, an 0.5 among Men 18-34 and Men 18-49, and an 0.4 among Men 25-54, well above VERSUS’ season averages to date. The Draft was competitive with ESPN’s programming of the X Games, the Australian Open, and Track & Field.