VERSUS Comes Out of the All-Star Break On a Roll with Ratings

After the most successful ratings and viewership for an NHL All-Star Game on cable and the best performance for the Super-Skills event since 2003, The NHL On VERSUS has extended their ratings success into the exclusive telecasts of regular-season games once the All-Star break ended, including breaking some records for hockey coverage at the network.

The network’s coverage of Pittsburgh/NY Rangers (2/1/11) and NY Rangers/Detroit (2/7/11) set a new high mark for VERSUS, becoming the first two back-to-back exclusive telecasts to draw more than 450,000 viewers. The Penguins/Rangers game drew 460,000 viewers two days after the break, and Rangers/Red Wings scored even better 534,000 viewers. The New York/Detroit telecast marked the third-highest average viewers for a VERSUS telecast this season. This is also the first time two consecutive exclusive NHL telecasts on cable have drawn 450,000+ viewers since 2004, back in the ESPN/ESPN2 days.

The two games were a 148% rise among average viewers over the games on comparable dates last season (494,000 vs. 199,000 for MIN/DAL and NJ-PHI on 2/2/10 and 2/8/10, respectively), and an impressive 157% growth year-to-year among men 18-49, and 120% among men 25-54. Compared to the network’s first two exclusive telecasts after the 2009 All-Star Game (the last time the event was held), there was growth of 25% (494,000 viewers vs. 395,000 for Washington/Boston and Detroit/St. Louis on 1/27/09 and 2/2/09).

Overall, the two games showed marked improvement from VERSUS’ first-half NHL average. The two telecasts are a 64% growth in viewers (494,000 vs. 302,000 before the All-Star Game), an 80% increase among men 18-49, and an 86% increase among men 25-54. It appears that we’ve seen yet another benefit from the All-Star Game, in that it gets viewers prepared to tune into the NHL’s national cable partner going towards the end of the season.

(Source: VERSUS)


NHL Overtime Showing Positive Results on Non-Game Nights

An interesting number came across the way for VERSUS’ nightly hockey series, NHL Overtime last week. All the info came from our friend Son of The Bronx. On Wednesday night, the show’s lead-in was the Penguins-Islanders game, which drew 181,000 viewers while not airing in the New York or Pittsburgh markets. The episode of Hockey Central that aired after it scored 129,000 viewers. The apparently still existing T. Ocho Show at 10:00 PM ET drew 59,000 viewers, with the episode of NHL Overtime airing in it’s normal timeslot getting 48,000 viewers.

The story was different on Thursday night, when VERSUS had a rerun of a very popular UFC bout that scored 254,000 viewers. NHL Overtime aired straight after and scored 108,000 viewers. I believe this may be a new series high for first run episodes, as reruns of the show that aired prior to the All-Star Game and the Skills Competition both scored higher, but I have yet to see a first-run episode of the show that has drawn that well.

So what is to be taken from this? Well, NHL Overtime is still very lead-in dependent. However, when VERSUS has more appealing programming airing in the timeslot before it, more folks checking that out are likely to tune in to Overtime.

Report: VERSUS Won’t Let Go of NHL Contract

From the great Stu Hackel of SI:

There has been much speculation about where the NHL’s U.S. TV rights are headed, but one source who is familiar with the negotiations says talks are continuing on a long-term deal that would keep the league’s games on NBC and Versus for anywhere between four and seven years.


While there have been reports that a bidding war is developing over the NHL’s rights on both broadcast and cable, there are indications that NBC and Versus will hold onto the packages, although the rights fees will be steeper. Within the TV industry, the thinking is that NBC’s retaining the rights to the NHL is crucial, not just to its effort to upgrade Versus, but also for the prestige of NBCUniversal’s new corporate structure and the new NBC Sports Group, as the NHL contract is their first deal to be negotiated. The source added that ESPN is unlikely to win any part of the national cable package.


In addition, the source said, Flyers owner Ed Snider “won’t let the NHL leave” Versus and NBC. “And I’d be very surprised if he would devalue the brand by letting ESPN have even a secondary national cable package.” In addition to his position as a powerful NHL team owner and member of the league’s Board of Governors Executive Committee, Snider is American Chairman of Comcast Spectacor.