Despite featuring two Canadian teams, and facing potential burnout from hockey fans who had just watched six hours of the sport earlier in the afternoon on NBC, the Heritage Classic in Calgary turned out to be a fairly successful outing for VERSUS on Sunday evening.
As John Ourand reports, the telecast of the NHL’s second outdoor game of the season, featuring Montreal taking on Calgary, drew 608,000 viewers to the network on Sunday night, the third-highest total for a game on the network this season. The game may have been helped by the cross-promotion from NBC, which had fairly regular live hits from Calgary during their well-rated broadcast of Hockey Day in America, especially during the Chicago/Pittsburgh game that preceded it.
The number is well down from the 4.5 million who watched the Winter Classic, but of course, that game featured two popular American teams, was on broadcast television, and aired in primetime. That VERSUS was able to come close to season-high numbers on a day saturated with hockey (and sports in general, with some of the game overlapping with the NBA All-Star Game) and featuring two Canadian teams, which gave them no local markets to draw audiences from, is a big win for the network.
VERSUS posted modest numbers for the rest of the week. Monday night’s Washington-Phoenix telecast drew 272,000 viewers, while Tuesday’s Buffalo-Montreal game scored a fairly similar 269,000 viewers. Finally, a “bonus” game (not aired in the local markets of the teams that were playing) between Minnesota and Chicago drew 163,000 viewers to the network on Wednesday night. Overall, the network averaged 328,000 viewers last week with hockey.
Top 10 Most-Watched VERSUS Games Through 2/23/11
1. Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia, 12/14/10 – 750,000 viewers
2. Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh, 10/7/10 – 730,000 viewers
3. Montreal vs. Calgary, 2/20/11 – 608,000 viewers
4. NY Rangers vs. Detroit, 2/7/11 – 534,000 viewers
5. Boston vs. Pittsburgh, 1/10/11 – 523,000 viewers
6. Pittsburgh vs. NY Rangers, 2/1/11 – 460,000 viewers
7. NY Rangers vs. Washington, 1/24/11 – 458,000 viewers
8. Buffalo vs. Boston, 12/7/10 – 438,000 viewers
9. Colorado vs. Detroit, 10/12/10 – 432,000 viewers
10. Chicago vs. Colorado, 10/7/10 – 430,000 viewers