Your Announcers and Open Thread For Night 13 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay, Game 6, 7:00 p.m. ET

National TV (US): VERSUS
Play by Play: Dave Strader
Inside the Glass: Darren Pang

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

San Jose vs. Los Angeles, Game 6, 10:00 p.m. ET

National TV (US): VERSUS

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

Chicago Would Like In On Our Little Party

Chicago, IL (April 25, 2011) – Comcast SportsNet, the television home for the most comprehensive coverage of the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, delivered its highest Blackhawks rating ever last evening (April 24) — a 12.45 household rating for its live coverage of the Blackhawks Game 6 first round, home ice victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

For last night’s pulse-pounding playoff OT win by the Blackhawks forcing a Game 7 on Tuesday night (NOTE: Game 7 coverage begins at 8:30 PM on CSN+, game will air on both Comcast SportsNet & CSN+ immediately following the conclusion of the Bulls game at approx. 9:45pm), Comcast SportsNet attracted approx. 436,074 households for the entire game and scored a massive 16.9 peak rating during the 9:45 PM quarter-hour (approx. 592,000 households). The 12.45 single game ratings record on Comcast SportsNet shatters the previous all-time record set last week on April 21 for the Blackhawks first round, Game 5 win at Vancouver (10.58). In addition, Comcast SportsNet also posted new all-time household ratings records last night for Chevy Blackhawks Pre-Game Live(3.43) and Jose Cuervo Blackhawks Post Game Live (5.32 for households, 5.81 for Adults 25-54). Source for all ratings information is provided by Nielsen Media Research.

Comcast SportsNet was also the #1-highest rated television network in the Chicago market last night for households and every key male & adult demographic for the entire length of the game (6:30-10:00 PM). In addition, for households and every key demographic (including Adults 25-54), Comcast SportsNet was the #1-highest rated network in the Chicago market from 6:00 – 11:30 PM, which included the network’s airing of Chevy Blackhawks Pre-Game Live, the Blackhawks vs. Vancouver game telecast, Jose Cuervo Blackhawks Post Game Live and back-to-back airings of GMC SportsNet Central.

For its live coverage of six Stanley Cup Playoffs first round telecasts thus far, Comcast SportsNet has garnered approx. 1.71 MILLION Chicago TV households tuning in for the network’s Blackhawks Stanley Cup Playoffs game coverage. Plus – Comcast SportsNet has attracted close to ONE MILLION households (965,000) tuning in to Chevy Blackhawks Pre-Game Live and Jose Cuervo Blackhawks Post Game Live so far this playoff season.

In comparison to Comcast SportsNet’s first round playoff series last season (NOTE: Blackhawks faced Nashville last year in the first round), Household ratings this year for the first round are up 35% (8.13 vs. 6.02) andAdults 25-54 ratings have increased 46% (7.04 vs. 4.84)

Please note the following key details for Comcast SportsNet’s coverage of Game 7 TOMORROW NIGHT (Tue, Apr. 26)…

9:00 PM – BLACKHAWKS at VANCOUVER in HD (Rd. 1, Gm. 7) – LIVE on Comcast SportsNet & CSN+

· IMPORTANT NOTE: Beginning at 9:00pm, the Blackhawks game will start exclusively on CSN+…the game will then air on BOTH Comcast SportsNet and CSN+ immediately following the conclusion of the Bulls game (approx. 9:45pm)

(NOTE: VISIT CSNCHICAGO.COM FOR EXACT CSN+ CHANNEL LOCATIONS IN YOUR AREA)

· Featuring Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk with the game call

· “Chevy Blackhawks Pre-Game Live” with hosts Chris Boden and Steve Konroyd will begin at 8:30 PM on CSN+ & CSNChicago.com…“Jose Cuervo Blackhawks Post Game Live” airs immediately following the game on Comcast SportsNet & CSN+.

They’re Also Good in Boston

NESN’s coverage of Saturday night’s Bruins double overtime win over Montreal in Game #5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series was the third highest rated Bruins playoff game in network history earning a 13.0 household rating in the Boston DMA. The last 3 games have all set records as the top three rated non Game 7 playoff ratings in network history.

Top 6 Bruins Playoff Ratings in NESN History

5/14/09 Game #7 vs. Carolina 14.1

5/14/10 Game #7 vs. Philadelphia 13.2

4/23/11 Game #5 vs. Montreal 13.0

4/19/04 Game #7 vs. Montreal 11.2

4/21/11 Game #4 vs. Montreal 10.8

4/18/11 Game #3 vs. Montreal 10.7

Tonight (Monday, April 25), NESN will deliver an encore presentation of Game #5 in its entirety beginning at 6:30 PM.

The series continues with Game #6 on Tuesday, April 26th with NESN’s regionally exclusive coverage beginning at 6:00 PM with a one-hour edition of Hess Bruins FaceOff LIVE featuring Kathryn Tappen, Barry Pederson and Gord Kluzak. Game time is at 7:00 PM with Jack Edwards, Andy Brickley and Naoko Funayama from the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Sabres Local Ratings Are Good … Scary Good

BUFFALO, N.Y. (April 25, 2011) — A sold-out HSBC Arena crowd of 18,690 along with 6,000 hearty fans watching outside at the Party in the Plaza didn’t prevent the Buffalo Sabres from posting their highest TV ratings in almost four years yesterday, averaging a season-high 24.0 Neilsen rating on NBC for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals series yesterday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

“It really says a lot about our fan base when we can attract ratings like this, with another sell-out crowd in the arena and another 6,000 watching the big screens outside in less than ideal weather conditions,” says Sabres President Ted Black. “We can only hope for a positive result tomorrow night to give them more to cheer about.”

The game averaged a 24.0 rating and 52 share locally, surpassing this season’s previous high of 19.2 set last Friday during Game 5 on MSG. Each Nielsen ratings point is equal to 6,363 homes in Buffalo, and that translates to 152,712 homes in the area tuning into watch the game. Yesterday’s game peaked during the overtime period at 28.2/57 (180,000 homes) between 6:15-6:30 p.m.

This was Buffalo’s highest-rated game since recording a 26.8/57 on May 19, 2007, in the deciding Game 5 of the Conference Finals against Ottawa on NBC. The 2007 playoffs also saw the Sabres post their highest-rated game ever, a 32.6/60 on NBC during a double-OT loss at the New York Rangers in Game 3 of the Conference Semifinals.

Yesterday’s game nearly tripled Buffalo’s only other NBC telecast this season on Sunday, February 20 against Washington. That game averaged a 9.0 rating and 19 share locally.

Ratings for Buffalo’s first five playoff games on MSG have averaged 18.4, with the Game 5 rating of 19.2 being the highest. There have also been two games of 18.9 (Games 1/4), 17.7 (Game 2) and 17.3 (Game 3).

Staggered Start Times Could Be On the Horizon

From Bruce Dowbiggin of The Globe and Mail:

With double overtimes and improbable comebacks, the 2011 playoffs have staggered a lot of people. Usual Suspects has learned that, if the NHL has its way, the 2012 playoffs may be staggered. With the new U.S. broadcast contract allowing NBC and partner Comcast exclusivity over the playoffs, the league wants to take a page from NCAA March Madness and stagger the start times of the games so they don’t all go to intermission at the same time.

Sources say that spacing the start times of games will mean non-stop action for fans – and oblivion for creaky intermission features such as the sweaty player interview and the eccentric analyst in the loud suit. It works perfectly in the early rounds of the annual U.S. college basketball blowout, sending viewers seamlessly from one game to another as a period or half ends. (Plus, you can never get enough of the anthems.) Interruptions from panels and experts are kept to a blessed minimum, and advertisers know fans will not leave the TV for 15 minutes to water the horses or quench their thirst in the kitchen.

There are hurdles to overcome in implementing the format. Canadian broadcasters have to be onside with the plan. CBC, in particular, makes a lot of money from a certain intermission feature, and then there are the constraints of news programming that already resents being punted for the eight weeks of the postseason. Asking Hockey Night in Canada to delay the start of a game for 15 to 20 minutes so NBC and Comcast can start a U.S.-based game would produce political issues in the Mel Hurtig lounge.

Arena availabilities, time-zone issues and team preferences could also be a factor. But the league wants a festival-like feeling around the playoffs and intends to make it happen.

I gotta’ say, the more I think of the Stanley Cup Playoffs positioning itself as a hockey alternative to the NCAA Tournament, the more I like it. I’d totally be on board with something like this. It’d probably be a mess logistically until they got it right, but worth trying.

Every Year The Readers Get Mad At Me For Posting The Mountain West’s VERSUS Schedule. Here It Is Again

It won’t be VERSUS when it airs, but it is worth noting that what other sports are airing on our TV network for the next decade is important.

Sept. 10, 3:30 p.m. ET or 7:30 p.m. ET – TCU vs. Air Force
Sept. 17, 3:30 p.m. ET – Texas Tech vs. New Mexico
Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m. ET – Nebraska vs. Wyoming
Oct. 1, TBD – Nevada vs. Boise State
Oct. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET – Air Force vs. Boise State
Nov. 5, 3:30 p.m. ET – Army vs. Air Force
Nov. 12, 3:30 p.m. ET – TCU vs. Boise State
Dec. 3, 3:30 p.m. ET – UNLV vs. TCU

VERSUS also typically airs games from the Ivy League and Pac-12. The network is currently trying to acquire the latter conference’s football and basketball rights.

Flyers-Sabres OT Thriller Draws Best First Round Numbers Since 2009

The NHL On NBC broadcast of Sunday’s overtime Game 6 between Philadelphia and Buffalo drew a 1.6 overnight rating, according to Austin Karp of SportsBusiness Daily. This rating is the best for a first round Stanley Cup Playoff game since April 19, 2009, when Penguins vs. Flyers, Game 3 drew a 1.7. The rating is up 19% from the comparable telecast last year (PHX vs. DET, Game 6, 4/25/10: 1.3). The number is also up 38% from the comparable telecast two years ago (WSH vs. NYR, Game 6, 4/26/09: 1.0). It is indoor hockey’s best numbers on television, period, since last year’s Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile on Saturday, while we were in Washington, the deciding Game 5 of Rangers/Capitals drew a 1.3 overnight. These numbers are even with the comparable year-ago telecast (NSH vs. CHI, Game 5, 4/24/10: 1.3) and up 8% from the similar telecast two years ago (PIT vs. PHI, Game 6, 4/25/09: 1.2). We’ll be waiting out local numbers for the rest of the day, but overall a lot to be happy with on the NBC side of things this weekend.

NHL On NBC Overnights This Season
January 1 – Washington vs. Pittsburgh: 
2.8
January 23 – Philadelphia vs. Chicago:
 1.1
February 6 – Pittsburgh vs. Washington: 
1.0
February 13 – Boston vs. Detroit: 
0.9
February 20 – Regional Coverage*: 
1.2
February 20 – Pittsburgh vs. Chicago*: 
1.2
March 6 – Philadelphia vs. NY Rangers: 0.9
March 13 – Chicago vs. Washington: 0.9
March 20 – NY Rangers vs. Pittsburgh: 0.7
April 3 – NY Rangers vs. Philadelphia: 1.0
April 10 – Detroit vs. Chicago: 1.1
Season Average: 1.1

2011 Stanley Cup Playoff Overnights

Apr. 16 – Phoenix vs. Detroit, Game 2: 1.1 
Apr. 17 – Washington vs. NY Rangers, Game 3: 
1.3
Apr. 23 – NY Rangers vs. Washington, Game 5: 1.3
Apr. 24 – Philadelphia vs. Buffalo, Game 6: 1.6

NHL on NBC Overnights for 2009-10 Season

Jan. 1, Philadelphia vs. Boston*: 2.6
Jan. 17, Chicago vs. Detroit: 
0.8
Jan. 24, Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia: 
1.3
Jan. 31, Detroit vs. Pittsburgh: 
1.2
Feb. 7, Pittsburgh vs. Washington: 
1.3
Mar. 7, Detroit vs. Chicago: 
1.2 
Mar. 14, Washington vs. Chicago: 
1.0
Mar. 21, NY Rangers vs. Boston: 0.7
Apr. 4, Detroit vs. Philadelphia: 1.0
Apr. 11, Boston vs. Washington: 0.9
Season Average: 1.2

2010 Stanley Cup Playoff Overnights

Apr. 17 – Boston vs. Buffalo, Game 2: 1.2
Apr. 18 – Phoenix vs. Detroit, Game 3: 1.5
Apr. 24 – Nashville vs. Chicago, Game 5: 1.3
Apr. 25 – Phoenix vs. Detroit, Game 6: 1.3
May 1 – Philadelphia vs. Boston, Game 1: 1.6
May 2 – Montreal vs. Pittsburgh, Game 2: 1.6
May 16 – Chicago vs. San Jose, Game 1: 1.7
May 22 – Philadelphia vs. Montreal, Game 4: 1.6
May 23 – San Jose vs. Chicago, Game 4: 2.0
Playoff Average: 1.5

2009 Stanley Cup Playoff Overnights

Apr. 18 – NY Rangers vs. Washington, Game 2: 1.0
Apr. 19 – Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia, Game 3: 1.7
Apr. 25 – Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia, Game 6: 1.2
Apr. 26 – Washington vs. NY Rangers, Game 6: 1.0
May 2 – Pittsburgh vs. Washington, Game 1: 1.4
May 3 – Anaheim vs. Detroit, Game 2: 1.3
May 17 – Chicago vs. Detroit, Game 1: 2.0
May 24 – Detroit vs. Chicago, Game 4: 1.5
Playoff Average: 1.3

The Big Markets Deliver Big Ratings Locally

A play, in three acts. First, from Fang’s Bites:

For last night’s thrilling Round 1, Game 5 Blackhawks shutout victory over the host Vancouver Canucks (back-to-back wins by the Blackhawks send the series back to Chicago for Game 6 on Sunday on Comcast SportsNet, coverage begins at 6:00 PM), Comcast SportsNet attracted approx. 370,575 households for the entire length of the game and posted a solid 12.30 peak rating during the 10:30 PM quarter-hour (approx. 430,820 households). The 10.58 single game Blackhawks ratings record on Comcast SportsNet beats the network’s previous all-time high set last year on May 5, 2010 (Rd. 2, Gm. 3 at Vancouver – 10.14 household rating).

Comcast SportsNet was also the #1-highest rated television network in the Chicago market last night for all TV Households and EVERY key demographic, including Adults 25-54 (7.88 rating in this demo), for the entire length of the Blackhawks game (9:00-11:45 PM). During the local news time period of 10:00-10:30 PM, Comcast SportsNet was again #1 in the market scoring an 11.62 household average.

Compared to last year’s first round playoff series vs. Nashville, Blackhawks playoff ratings on Comcast SportsNet have performed exceptionally well this year with a 15% overall increase for households and a 21% increase for Adults 25-54.

From MSG:

New York, NY – April 21, 2011 – MSG Networks’ ratings of the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs continued to stay hot through the fourth game of the series versus the Washington Capitals. Wednesday night’s telecast garnered a 3.05 household rating, which, combined with the 3.45 household rating in Game 1, marks the first time two Rangers games have scored above a 3.00 household rating in the same playoff series since 1997.

Through three Rangers playoff games on MSG Networks this postseason, the average ratings in the household, as well as two key demos, are up when compared to the first three games on MSG Networks during the 2008-09 first round playoff series, which also against the Capitals. The A25-54 rating is up 32% (2.15 A25-54 vs. 1.63 A25-54), the M25-54 rating is up 18% (3.45 M25-54 vs. 2.92 M25-54) and the HH rating is up 7% (2.87 HH vs. 2.68 HH).

Game 5 of the series will be telecast nationally at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and immediately after the game MSG Network will produce a 60-minute post game show. If Game 6 is necessary on Monday, MSG Network will telecast the game along with 60-minute pre- and post game shows.

and back to Fang’s Bites:

NESN’s coverage of last night’s 4-2 Bruins win over Montreal in Game #3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series was the highest rated Bruins playoff game in network history that was not a Game 7, garnering a 10.7 household rating in the Boston DMA. Only 3 other Bruins games have earned higher ratings on NESN since the network launched in 1984, all of which were Game 7 of a playoff series.

Top 5 Bruins Playoff Ratings in NESN History

5/14/09 Game #7 vs. Carolina 14.1

5/14/10 Game #7 vs. Philadelphia 13.2

4/19/04 Game #7 vs. Montreal 11.2

4/18/11 Game #3 vs. Montreal 10.7

5/12/10 Game #6 vs. Philadelphia 10.3

Ratings For Night 8 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Plus an updated top 10.

6:30 p.m. ET Hockey Central – 52,000 viewers
7:00 p.m. ET Washington vs. NY Rangers, Game 4 – 619,000 viewers
11:02 p.m. ET Detroit vs. Phoenix, Game 4 – 491,000 viewers
1:14 a.m. ET Hockey Central – 133,000 viewers

Top 10

1. Vancouver vs. Chicago, Game 3 (4/17/11) – 689,000 viewers
2. Montreal vs. Boston, Game 2 (4/16/11) – 661,000 viewers
3. Vancouver vs. Chicago, Game 4 (4/19/11) – 621,000 viewers
4. Washington vs. NY Rangers, Game 4 (4/20/11) – 619,000 viewers
5. NY Rangers vs. Washington, Game 2 (4/15/11) – 606,000 viewers
6. Philadelphia vs. Buffalo, Game 3 (4/18/11) – 572,000 viewers
7. Chicago vs. Vancouver, Game 2 (4/15/11) – 562,000 viewers
8. Chicago vs. Vancouver, Game 1 (4/13/11) – 540,000 viewers
9. Montreal vs. Boston, Game 1 (4/14/11) – 510,000 viewers
10. Detroit vs. Phoenix, Game 4 (4/20/11) – 491,000 viewers

Did The Winter Classic Save The NHL on Network TV?

We often talk about the National Hockey League as if it is a potential boon product on national television. Growing ratings in the regular season and playoffs. Lots of great numbers during the playoffs. Best ratings for Stanley Cup Final games in years. Then there’s the behemoth of Olympic ratings, but those don’t really matter in terms of the NHL. The fact is, the hockey world almost always projects (and Puck the Media is often to blame for this) hockey as growing solidly on TV.

For the playoffs, that is absolutely true. But during the regular season? We’ve seen some improvement on VERSUS, but the network TV numbers on NBC remain – even with the Winter Classic – at their lowest levels since the league returned to broadcast television with FOX in 1994. The NHL hasn’t seen it’s regular season ratings on the major networks go up since 2002. That’s a long time to trend downward for a product that just cut a check for $2 billion from a major corporation for broadcast rights.

This just goes to show you the value of the Winter Classic. Not only does the game typically double and come close to tripling the numbers that the rest of NBC’s regular season broadcasts, it attracts advertisers galore. It moves a ton of merchandise, and provides the NHL and NBC with a valuable promotional vehicle for the rest of their seasons. Even if buzz is down everywhere else, the NHL and NBC can often point to the Winter Classic as the one place where they get mainstream sports fans to check out the game before April.

It makes this writer wonder where the NHL network would be on TV if the Winter Classic hadn’t been invented, or if it had gone bust in it’s first year. Would the NHL still claim growing playoff ratings? Probably. The Detroit/Pittsburgh finals, as well as the one we had last year were bound to grow from the abysmal triad of “Sun Belt v. Canada” match-ups. More importantly, just how much worse would the regular season numbers on NBC be? Where would VERSUS be without it being used to promote games on that network?

The answer is probably a little more grim than a lot of hockey diehards want to admit. While it is a package of things that have spurred the NHL to this deal, let’s face it: NBC’s portion of this deal is likely almost entirely a buy-in on the Winter Classic and Stanley Cup Final games. Without it, the NHL likely gets a smaller deal from VERSUS/NBC, with NBC likely paying very little of it. Would NBC still even want to be involved? Would the NHL have accepted their fate as a cable-only sport and gone back to ESPN, or take a cable-only deal with Turner or Fox? It’s certainly possible, even likely, to think the NHL might look to be headed off broadcast television for good.

I guess a lot of this is very much hypothetical. The Winter Classic did come it, did become a pretty solid hit among hockey standards, did move millions in merch, did draw millions in viewers. I guess your opinion depends on how much you value the platform broadcast television still provides. Does the NHL still need to be on NBC? Does NBC still need the NHL? Without the Winter Classic, maybe, and maybe not. The Winter Classic ensures that the NHL has – aside from the Stanley Cup Final – a product it wants showcased to the biggest audience possible, and NBC has a “prestige” event they can air on New Year’s Day. It serves both purposes, and is likely the reason we see the full extent of the TV deal hammered out last week.

But it’s still very interesting, and maybe a little frightening, to think about what could’ve happened had none of this been started in the first place.