Everyone Likes Chicken, and The NHL is Doing Fine

NEW YORK (October 13, 2011) – The National Hockey League opened its 95th season with record fan engagement across all measureable platforms, continuing the strong momentum the League has built over the past six seasons.


With the 2011 Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off™ fan festival attracting tens of thousands of fans to The Forks in Winnipeg, international stars leading their NHL® clubs across the Atlantic to open the season in front of sold-out crowds at the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere™ and record-breaking opening-night TV ratings, the 2011-12 NHL season opened on a strong note.


Strong Demand Drives Increased Ratings For Opening Weekend


VERSUS opened its seventh year of NHL coverage with the most-watched regular season game in the network’s history (874,000 viewers) as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Boston Bruins 2-1 on the night the Bruins raised their first Stanley Cup® banner in 39 years. Viewership was up 20 percent over last year’s opening game (720,000, Flyers-Penguins, Oct. 7, 2010).


CBC’s HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA attracted a record audience before the first puck drop of the season, as its opening-night pre-game show on Thursday drew nearly one million viewers (929,000) — a 66% increase over last season. Then, 1.935 million Canadians watched the classic Game 1 match-up between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs – beating last year’s opening-game mark of 1.923 million.



TSN’s Friday afternoon game between the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings from Stockholm, Sweden delivered 213,00 viewers, up 22% from last year’s comparable telecast.


Saturday night’s game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators was a record-setter for CBC’s HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA, with an average audience of 2.359 million viewers tuning in—nine per cent more than the previous record-holder for the first Saturday game of the season, set last year.


On Sunday, the first Winnipeg Jets home opener since 1996 drew an average total audience of 1.825 million viewers on CBC, and 819,000 on RDS.


In all, 16 million Canadians — representing 47.7% of the total population, according to Nielsen/BBM Canada — watched all or part of a local or national NHL broadcast during Opening Weekend (Thu-Sun).


NHL Network™ provided fans with complementary coverage of Opening Night pre-and post-game from its set in Boston for the first banner-raising in the city in 39 years; on the scene in Winnipeg for 2011 Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off™, and in Vancouver for the Canucks-Pittsburgh Penguins game at Rogers Arena.


Digital Content Continues to Attract NHL Fans in Record Numbers


The NHL’s digital media focus this season emphasizes improved broadband and mobile product experiences; expanded distribution among mobile, tablet and connected devices and greater penetration within key European countries; and a social media approach that prioritizes social-centric experiences and earned media.


Results from opening week validate the strategy across all digital touch points, including:




· NHL.com experienced 9% more visitors during the first week (Thur.-Wed.) compared to last year’s record traffic numbers for same time period, and saw a 57% increase in video starts.


· Buoyed by the excitement surrounding the Winnipeg Jets’ season-opener, NHL.com enjoyed its #9 day all-time for video starts on Sunday, Oct. 9 (1.9 million), achieving a top-10 figure despite a light schedule of two games.


· With the launch of six foreign-language sites in key European nations, international visitors from key countries grew at double-and triple-digit rates.


· Strong International UV growth among Finland (+82%), Sweden (+47%), Germany (+40%), Czech Republic (+252%) and Russia (+31%) during opening weekend (Thur. – Sun.)


· Strong International video start growth among Finland (+198%), Sweden (+190%), Germany (+132%), Czech Republic (+448%), Russia (+179%) and Slovakia (+186%) during opening weekend (Thur. – Sun.)


NHL GameCenter LIVE™



NHL GameCenter LIVE was enhanced for 2011-12, emphasizing a refined and more intuitive user interface, more features and functions, and the ability to authenticate multiple devices from a single subscription.


· Subscriptions to NHL GameCenter LIVE increased 105% over the same period last season.


· Subscriptions recorded on the first day of the regular season were the highest daily total in NHL GameCenter LIVE history, while the following Friday and Saturday were the second-and third-highest ever. The weekly total is more than double the previous high for a single week.


NHL Mobile and Tablet Apps


· The League’s new carrier-agnostic distribution strategy enables the NHL to develop and deliver the experience to more carriers and smartphones, which resulted in a 250-percent increase in app downloads so far this season


· For both iPad and iPhone, NHL GameCenter™ was the top grossing sports app in the US, Canada and Russia.


NHL Mobile Web


· NHL Mobile page views saw 63% growth over the start of last season, led by a 179% increase in mobile page views outside North America.


NHL Social


· The NHL has an extended reach on Twitter and Facebook of more than 2.5mm, an increase of 105% over the start of last season.


· NHL launched a new Facebook application at start of season — NHL Fan Banner™ – which through the first several days of the season, fans were downloading more than 1,000 per hour for use.


· Social networks continue to be a source of referred traffic to NHL.com with Facebook referrals up 50% over last year’s season opening and Twitter up 450%.


· Visitors to NHL.com that are referred by Facebook or Twitter continue to consume content at a higher rate than the average visitor, including visits (+27%), video starts (+68%) and articles read (+51%).


NHL Merchandise Hotter Than Ever


· Sales of NHL licensed merchandise were up 12% to date, driven by the introduction of new jerseys in Nashville, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, Florida, Edmonton and Winnipeg; retro-inspired snap back headwear; EA Sports’ NHL 12 video game; Boston Bruins Stanley Cup commemorative items, and women’s and kids apparel


· Through the opening week of the season, in-arena per-capita sales for home openers was up 31 percent compared to last season


· Overall in-arena merchandise sales for the 2011 NHL Premiere™ games in Europe were up 7%, despite there being two fewer regular-season games played this year (6 games LY vs. 4 games TY)


· Sales at Shop.NHL.com up 32% for the first week of the season compared to last year, led by sales of Winnipeg Jets, Boston Bruins championship and Hockey Fights Cancer merchandise.


· Sales at the NHL Store Powered by Reebok in midtown New York City are up 10% against comparable season opening week


· The NHL has seen record-setting new team sales for the Winnipeg Jets in the first 90 days


2010-11 NHL Business: Best Year on Record


In a season that saw outstanding on-ice performances — a dramatic playoff chase that went down to the last minute of the last game of the season, plus a thrilling playoff capped by a seven-game Stanley Cup Final — the NHL experienced unprecedented success off the ice. Led by dramatic increases in sponsorship and merchandise sales, landmark corporate investment in its big events and impressive digital growth, the NHL experienced its fifth consecutive year of record revenue and approached nearly $3 billion in total revenue. League-generated revenue has increased by 15 percent for this year and has increased by 150 percent over the past five years. Sponsorship sales set an all-time record with gross sales increasing by 33 percent over last year as the League added to its roster of bluechip corporate partners attracted by the most-coveted fan demographic in all of sports. The NHL received rave reviews for partnering with HBO on 24/7 and recently announced a new 10-year television agreement with the NBC Sports Group. For its business achievements, Sports Business Journal named the NHL as its “League of the Year.”



Pens Bigger Out Of Market Draw Then Caps on VERSUS This Week

Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals played games on VERSUS against Florida teams that were blacked out in their local markets, and the Pens proved the larger attraction.

Monday night’s VERSUS telecast of Lightning/Capitals (which aired on CSN Mid-Atlantic in DC, but on VERSUS in Tampa) drew an 0.1 rating and 162,000 viewers for Washington’s 6-5 shootout victory over Tampa Bay. Tuesday night’s broadcast of Panthers/Penguins (seen on ROOT Sports in Pittsburgh, VERSUS in South Florida) drew an 0.2 rating and 216,000 viewers for Pittsburgh’s 4-2 victory over Florida. Panthers/Pens also drew more viewers among Adults 18-49 (116,000) than Lightning/Caps (86,000).

Meanwhile, Saturday’s telecast of Rangers/Ducks from the NHL Premiere series drew 124,000 viewers at 1 p.m. ET. The telecast was blacked out in the New York metropolitan area, but aired live on VERSUS in Southern California. This was up 19% from the prior afternoon’s New York-blacked-out Rangers/Kings game (101,000). It was also up 7% from the year-ago telecast of Phoenix/Boston (116,000), which was blacked out in Boston.

(Source: The Voice of TV)