MSG Draws Best Rangers Numbers Since 1997

In the “Steve was wrong” department, from Neil Best:

Rangers-Capitals averaged 3.45% of NY area homes on MSG Plus for Game 1, highest Rangers rating since 1997.

VERSUS Up 12% On Opening Night

According to a VERSUS spokesperson, the network’s coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last night averaged 534,000 viewers for Game 1 broadcasts of Phoenix/Detroit, part of New York/Washington and Chicago/Vancouver.

This was up 12% from last year’s opening night of Stanley Cup Playoff coverage, which featured Ottawa/Pittsburgh and Detroit/Phoenix. As with last year, this is the best opening night for VERSUS in their playoff coverage since 2006. It should be noted that VERSUS’ coverage was exclusive in Phoenix, but not in Chicago, Detroit, New York and Washington. VERSUS coverage was not exclusive in Phoenix or any of the other markets last season.


Your Announcers and Open Thread For Night Two of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Game 1: Montreal vs. Boston

National TV (US, will not air in the Boston market): VERSUS (HD)
Play by Play: Dave Strader
Inside the Glass: Darren Pang

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

Game 1: Buffalo vs. Philadelphia, 7:30 PM ET

National TV (Canada): TSN (HD)

Game 1: Los Angeles vs. San Jose, 10:00 PM ET

National TV (US): VERSUS (HD)

National TV (Canada): TSN (HD)
Play by Play: Gord Miller
Inside the Glass: Ray Ferraro

Huge Numbers in DC For Game 1

According to Brian Potter from CSN:

Game 1 was the 2nd highest-rated #Caps game in CSN history, posting a 6.18 in WSH. During OT, approx. 225k WSH/BAL homes were tuned in.

The NHL Has Reason To Celebrate Again

NEW YORK (April 13, 2011) — In a season that saw outstanding on-ice performances capped by a spectacular playoff chase that went down to the last minute of the last game of the regular season, the NHL experienced unprecedented success off the ice, achieving myriad business records and milestones.

Led by dramatic increases in sponsorship and merchandise sales, landmark corporate investment in its big events and impressive digital growth, the NHL is on pace for its fifth consecutive year of record total revenue and is projected to bring more than $2.9 billion by the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. NHL Enterprises’ revenue is forecasted to increase by 14.8 percent and also will set a new best. Sponsorship sales set an all-time record with gross sales increasing by 33 percent over last year as the League added to its blue chip roster of corporate partners, attracted by the most coveted fan demographic in all of pro sports. In February, the NHL announced a new seven-year partnership with Molson Coors in Canada and MillerCoors in the U.S. to begin in July – the biggest sponsorship in the League’s 93-year history.

“The game on the ice, which has never been better, has fueled much of our business momentum,” said NHL COO John Collins. “There is a buzz around our game. Fans are talking hockey, watching hockey and engaging with the NHL like never before. That in turn has led to the corporate community taking notice and embracing their association with the League in meaningful, creative and impactful ways.”

The NHL’s large-scale events in 2010-11 were once again a big driver of business growth for the League. The Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the League’s annual outdoor New Year’s Day game, played this year at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, sold out of all of its sponsorship opportunities and at the time generated more revenue than any event in NHL history. That record was broken just seven weeks later when the Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic in Calgary, played for the first time since 2003, surpassed that mark. NHL All-Star returned after a one-year hiatus for the Olympics and was a huge success, boasting a 64 percent increase in sponsorship revenue over the last U.S.-based All-Star, as Discover Card was brought on board as the first presenting sponsor in a decade. Interest in the event spiked as the NHL introduced the innovative NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft Powered By Cisco as a means to select the two teams.

On the TV side, all North American partners experienced viewership increases while reaching new heights. NBC Sports’ Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic broadcast was the most-watched regular season game in the U.S. in 36 years. On U.S. cable this season, VERSUS recorded its top four games in network history this season. VERSUS also earned its highest-ever NHL All-Star ratings for the 2011 game in Raleigh. Locally, 17 out of 30 NHL clubs’ regional sports networks saw ratings increases or were even compared to last year.

The NHL Network increased ad revenue this season by 70 percent while unveiling multiple enhancements and original programming, with a particular emphasis on live coverage around tent pole events. Examples include the Network showing an unprecedented 16 hours of original programming around the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and introducing an addition 2 hours of live programming weeknights beginning at 4 p.m. ET around the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The League’s loyal fans continued to crave all things NHL, driving merchandise sales to a robust a 15 percent increase over last year with setting a new best with nine percent growth over last year’s record.

The NHL’s digital businesses continued to deliver new high-water marks and record revenue. Average monthly unique visitors to this season are up 30 percent. In March, set record unique visitors and video starts for the month, and is currently on pace to top those numbers in April.

Revenue for the NHL’s digital businesses increased by 14 percent, with revenue alone up 28 percent, setting a new best. Fans also continued to connect with the NHL via social media platforms, with the League reaching nearly 1.5 million fans on Facebook and growing its number of Twitter followers by 54 percent.

Below are highlights of the League’s success across its various businesses:


· The NHL saw its fifth consecutive year of record revenue, with a projection of more than $2.9 billion by the end of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs despite a challenging economy

· NHL Enterprises revenue is forecasted to increase by 14.8 percent over last year


· NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover in Raleigh showed a 64 percent increase in sponsorship revenue over the last U.S.-based All-Star event

· The 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic in Calgary was the highest revenue generating event in NHL history and the highest-rated game between two Canadian teams in Versus’ history

· The 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic saw all sponsorship opportunities sold out and a 22 percent increase in U.S. viewership on NBC. It was the most-viewed regular season game on U.S. TV in 36 years.


· The League saw a record year for sponsorship sales with gross sales up 33 percent over last year

· In February the NHL signed the biggest sponsorship deal in its history with Molson Coors in Canada and MillerCoors in the U.S., which begins in July 2011.

· The NHL added Discover Card as the first presenting sponsor of the All-Star Game in a decade

· The League also signed or renewed sponsorship deals with Bridgestone, Canadian Tire, Cisco Systems, Discover Card, McDonald’s, Huggies, RIM/Blackberry and Tim Hortons.

Consumer Products

· Overall merchandise sales gained 15 percent

· Growth was driven by strong category sales in jerseys, electronic games, lifestyle apparel, headwear, sales at big events (Winter Classic, All-Star, Heritage Classic), Chicago post-Stanley Cup sales

· In-arena per-cap sales increased by 10 percent

· The NHL Powered by Reebok store saw 8 percent growth

· Sales on set a new record and were up 9 percent year-over-year



· The Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on NBC was the most-watched regular season game on U.S. TV in 36 years and showed a 22 percent increase in viewership over 2010

· NBC Sports’ coverage of Penguins-Blackhawks, the second game of “Hockey Day in America,” was watched by 1.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched non-Winter Classic NHL regular-season game in five years (1/14/06, three-game regional on NBC, 2.0 million).

· The top 10 NBC markets in terms of ratings growth were: 1. Minneapolis/St. Paul (+70%), 2. San Antonio (+67%); 3. Dayton (+60%); 4. Kansas City (+50%); 5. Pittsburgh (+42%); 6. Baltimore (+38%); T7. New York (+33%); T7. Washington D.C. (+33%); 9. Albuquerque-Santa Fe (+29%); T10. Buffalo (+25%) T10. Knoxville (+25%); T10. Louisville (+25%)


· Regular season viewership increased by 17 percent over last year

· The top two and four of the top five most-watched NHL regular season games in Versus’ history came this season

· The 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover on VERSUS was the most-watched on the network’s history and gained 36 percent over the 2009 telecast


· CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada game one regular season viewership average increased by 10 percent over last year

· CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada game two regular season viewership average increased by 6 percent over last year


· TSN’s regular season viewership increased by eight percent


· RDS’ viewership was up 9.6 percent over last year in the Quebec francophone market


· Locally, 17 out of 30 NHL clubs’ regional sports networks saw ratings increases or were even compared to last year. The top 5 NHL markets in terms of ratings growth on cable RSNs were: 1. St. Louis (+43%), 2. Boston (+41%), 3. Tampa Bay (+33%), 4. Dallas (+29%), 5. Nashville (+25%).

· Average monthly unique visitors gained 30 percent over last season

· March 2011 was’s biggest month all time in terms of unique visitors, and is on pace to break that record for April 2011.

· attracted a single-day record for unique visitors on March 23 – besting the previous record by 67 percent

· Video starts increased by 139 percent over last season

· Visits to were up 17 percent, and page views were up 8 percent


· Page Views on the NHL Mobile website showed a 58 percent increase from last season

· Revenue increased by 30 percent

· March set a record in terms of total visits and page views, and is on pace to top those numbers for April 2011

NHL GameCenter Live

· Subscriptions gained 37 percent over last season

Social Media

· The NHL Facebook page has 1.46 million fans, a 436 percent increase over last year

· NHL followers on Twitter have increased by 54 percent


· NHL teams averaged 17,132 fans and played to 93.2 percent of capacity. This average is the third largest all-time and an increase over last year.*

(*Attendance figures for 2010-11, 2009-10, 2008-09 and 2007-08 are through corresponding number of home games played this season. Attendance figures for all Winter Classic and European Premiere Series games have been replaced with the team’s home capacity.)

In A Tough Call For VERSUS, Other NBC/Comcast Networks Should Be Used As Overflow

It is everything that we imagine as hockey fans: playoff overtime. This is one of the things that is undeniably appealing about the sport, even to someone who has no understanding of it. The game becomes simple: score a goal, the game is over. If there are no goals, the game goes on … and on, and on, and on. Even as games head into second, third and potentially fourth overtimes, the game remains fascinating, a study in attrition, in just how much energy the best athletes on earth can expend until one of them slows down just enough to let another of them get the break they need to win it.

So, it is without surprise that – despite showing only the third period before it – VERSUS’ “Joined in Progress” broadcast of Rangers/Capitals from Comcast Sportsnet was followed into overtime, preempting in every market aside from New York and Washington, the entire first period of the Chicago/Vancouver back-end of the doubleheader, which featured original VERSUS production. Anyone outside of those two markets, and obviously Chicago, missed the only two goals scored of the game, both in the first period from Vancouver.

The two questions are: 1. was VERSUS right to do so? and 2. What can be done to fix it?

The first question is likely that VERSUS made the correct call. As annoyed as I imagine some might be to miss out on those two Vancouver goals, VERSUS has to chase what will get it higher ratings, something that can be difficult to do in the early rounds, when most of the time the local markets are shut out. Since they don’t have any local markets to be loyal to in Round 1 (save Phoenix last night) there’s not really a reason for them not to continue through an overtime featuring an Original Six team and one of the league’s biggest individual stars.

So what do we do about the second question, as far as what can VERSUS do about it? One of the readers commented last night that there was an overflow channel available to him, it was kept blacked out for last night. Even if it was in use for some people last night (I don’t have the channel) shouldn’t there be a better option for the over-flow of games?

Here’s a suggestion, though I’m sure one that would face obstacles: use one of the many Comcast/NBC networks that are now in cahoots with VERSUS since the merger. Honestly, what is the Golf Channel doing at 10PM ET? How about Universal Sports, which isn’t in as many homes as VERSUS, but is often in need of live programming? Heck, can’t the E! Channel put some hockey on? Their news editor, Ken Baker, wrote a hockey book once. There’s a ton of networks in the NBC/Comcast stable, why can’t one of them be used for a period or two of hockey every now and then?

The fact is, when you could watch the Rangers/Capitals game on three separate outlets (VERSUS, Center Ice and Game Center Live), there was no way of watching Blackhawks/Canucks on any such outlet. That is a complete disservice to the hardcore hockey fans, and something needs to be done about overflow content in the next television contract, if it can’t be fixed within this post-season.