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

Game 2: Tampa Bay vs. Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM ET

National TV (Canada): CBC (HD)
Play by Play: Dean Brown
Color: Greg Millen
Reporter: Cassie Campbell-Pascal

Game 2: NY Rangers vs. Washington, 7:30 PM ET

National TV (US): VERSUS (HD)
Play by Play: Ken Daniels
Color: Daryl Reaugh
Inside the Glass: Darren Eliot

National TV (Canada): TSN (HD)
Play by Play: Chris Cuthbert
Inside the Glass: Pierre McGuire

Game 2: Chicago vs. Vancouver, 10:00 PM ET

National TV (Canada): CBC (HD)
Play by Play: Jim Hughson
Color: Craig Simpson
Reporter: Scott Oake

National TV (US): VERSUS (HD)
Play by Play: John Forslund
Inside the Glass: Brian Engblom

Game 2: Nashville vs. Anaheim, 10:30 PM ET

National TV (Canada): TSN (HD)

Big Ratings Everywhere on NHL Day 1

NEW YORK (April 15, 2011) – The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are off to a flying start with substantial viewership increases at both the national and local levels and huge gains on NHL.com in traffic and consumption.

In the U.S., VERSUS set a network record by averaging 534,328 viewers with their opening night triple-header, the best opening night in its six years of Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage and a 12 percent increase over last year. In Canada, CBC earned a 29 percent increase over last year by averaging 1.58 million viewers for its two opening night playoff broadcasts, highlighted by its coverage of Chicago-Vancouver, up a whopping 207 percent over the comparable game last year (Colorado-San Jose). TSN’s telecast of New York-Washington delivered 664,000 viewers; good for a 38 percent gain compared to last year’s opening playoff broadcast featuring two U.S. based teams (Philadelphia-New Jersey, 481,000 viewers).

Locally, Comcast SportsNet’s scored with its Game 1 coverage of the Washington-New York series, posting a 6.2 rating in the D.C. market, making it the second-highest Capitals rating in network history, behind only Game 7 of last year’s first-round series vs. Montreal (8.10) and up 21 percent over last year’s Game 1 against Montreal. The game also earned strong ratings in New York despite head-to-head competition from the Knicks, Yankees and Mets. The 3.4 local rating in New York on MSG Plus made it the highest-rated Conference Quarterfinal telecast for the Rangers since 1997. On ROOT Sports in Pittsburgh, the Penguins earned a massive 16.2 for its win over Tampa Bay. Detroit responded to the Red Wings Game 1 victory over Phoenix with a 9.4 rating on Fox Sports Detroit, while the Blackhawks drew a 5.1 on Comcast SportsNet for its Game 1 loss in Vancouver.

NHL.com continued its upward trajectory for the first day of the playoffs with unique visitors up 23 percent, page views up 22 percent and video starts showing a huge 163 percent increase. On the mobile side, page views were up a healthy 66 percent.

Some notes from NHL.com’s opening night success:

· The top 10 U.S. markets showed year over year growth, even across cities that participated in last year’s opening day of the playoffs but did not have a game on Wednesday such as Philadelphia and San Jose

· Five of the six Canadian NHL cities also showed growth despite one fewer Canadian team making the playoffs

· International demand for the game continues to be strong, with double digit unique visitor growth across the top 10 countries

· The U.S. gained 27 percent, Canada gained 17 percent, while Finland led with 68 percent growth

· The Capitals are showing strength as a regional team with Norfolk (58 percent), Washington D.C. (50 percent) and Richmond (46 percent) all among the top 10 U.S. markets in terms of year over year growth in unique visitors to NHL.com

· In New York, where the Rangers returned to the playoffs after a one year absence, unique visitors were up 38 percent

· Tampa-St. Pete showed substantial growth of 79 percent as did Nashville, up 52 percent

· The state of California also registered gains with Los Angeles up 32 percent and San Francisco/San Jose/Oakland up 22 percent

NHL in Midst of Best-Ever Business Year

As announced on Wednesday, the NHL experienced unprecedented success off the ice this year, achieving a host of 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 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.

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 Shop.NHL.com 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 NHL.com this season are up 30 percent. In March, NHL.com set monthly records in unique visitors and video starts, and is currently on pace to top those numbers in April. Revenue for the NHL’s digital businesses increased by 14 percent, with NHL.com 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.

Buffalo Up Big For Sabres Game 1

From Talkin’ TV:

If the TV rating for the Buffalo Sabres’ 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs is any indication, Sabre Fever already is very high.

The game had an 18.9 rating on MSG, which was 50 percent higher than the Sabres’ 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins (12.2) in a first-round playoff game in 2010.

Of course, the Sabres game was the top-rated program on all of TV locally Thursday night by a wide margin.

New Look NHL Net Finally Has a Pre-Game Presence

There’s still some kinks to be worked out about NHL Network’s new three-hour pre-game combination of NHL Live and a pre-game edition of NHL On the Fly. The new, more telegenic edition of NHL Live can a feel a bit more awkward without the traditional “Radio on The TV” format of limited camera angles and two people talking into the microphones. On the Fly is pretty stable, but could still use some perking up.

The fact is, there’s potential here, and the NHL Network has once again done fans a favor by merely existing and doing something that wasn’t available to us before: essentially, the network has created a three-hour pre-game show. Not just that, but a three-hour pre-game show with enough different looks and different things to do than just the standard studio show that it is watch-able without, for the most part, being boring. All the NHL Network had to do was come up with enough material to fill the time, and they have. As long as this wasn’t a disaster, it was going to be solid.

NHL Live, as I said, looks awkward, but maintains it’s position as the more entertaining of the NHL radio shows, ahead of the now radio-only once again The Power Play, which was dull as dirt for TV. NHL Live was always the better show regardless, and I won’t necessarily miss The Power Play in that slot, save for Phil Esposito’s guest appearances. You figure they’ll figure out how to make it a more interesting visual show.

Without Don LaGreca hosting with EJ Hradek, the show simply isn’t as good. But current host Deb Placey sets up Hradek, who manages to keep his less-annoying version of Chris Russo schtick in check, for some decent hockey talk. I also liked the Billy Jaffe cut-in interview with Ian Lapperiere. I hope that returns, as well as the whip-around to announcers at each venue. Reminds me of how FOX does it before their football games, and provided some good info.

NHL On the Fly is using some new analysts during the post-season, and working hosts and analysts in shifts each night. The hour I watched pre-game featured the fairly dependable Kelly Chase and Brad May, the latter of whom I’d never seen do studio work before, but seemed pretty adept at it. This show got more into the locker rooms of each game, using clips from various regional sports networks, and re-using very little of the NHL Live footage.

As for the new look in terms of graphics? I like it quite fine. It eats up less space in standard definition, and the viewers in HD get a bit of a bonus with quickly updated live scores during game actions. It still isn’t the most exciting show on earth, but On the Fly continues to become more watch-able, and continues to be better than Hockey Central. That’s really all it needs to be, and all the NHL Network needs to be: a visible, dependable destination for the hockey fans who want the coverage.

Opening Night VERSUS Ratings

(Source: Son of the Bronx)

6:30 p.m. Hockey Central – 149,000 viewers
7:00 p.m.  Phoenix vs. Detroit, Game 1^ – 484,000 viewers
9:44 p.m.  NY Rangers vs. Washington, Game 1* – 673,000 viewers
10:38 p.m.  Chicago vs. Vancouver, Game 1# – 540,000 viewers
12:44 p.m. Hockey Central – 168,000 viewers

^- Blacked out in the Detroit market
*-
The New York and Washington markets saw Chicago/Vancouver at 10:00 p.m.
#- Blacked out in the Chicago market.