SBD/Issue 120/Sports Media

Versus Sees Ratings Drop For First Three NHL Games Post-Olympics


Versus' ratings "dropped" for the first three NHL games it aired after the Vancouver Games, according to Diane Pucin of the L.A. TIMES. Versus' first game after the Olympics, Monday's Red Wings-Avalanche game "drew an average of 400,000 viewers," a 41% increase from the "season average of 278,000." But combined with Tuesday's Flyers-Lightning game and Wednesday's Capitals-Sabres game, which was blacked out on Versus in DC and Buffalo, the net is "averaging 263,000" viewers for the three post-Olympics games. Nielsen Communications Dir Aaron Lewis "cautioned that three games is not enough to spot a trend." And Versus Exec VP/Programming, Production & Business Operations Marc Fein said that "one positive sign has been that visitors to the network's NHL website have been spending 25% longer on the site." Fein: "It started during the Olympics. People are spending longer on the hockey pages and that indicates to us the casual fan is tuning in and trying to learn." Pucin noted "nearly 28 million people watched" Sunday's Canada-U.S. Olympic gold-medal hockey game on NBC. But "how many of those viewers will watch this Sunday's NBC regular-season NHL telecast" between the Red Wings and  Blackhawks? NBC is "going all out Sunday" for its coverage, "with a special pregame piece on the Olympics and with its in-game 'starcam' focused on" Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane or C Jonathan Toews, and Red Wings D Nicklas Lidstrom or Brian Rafalski.  U.S. men’s hockey team GM and Maple Leafs Exec VP & GM Brian Burke said there is "patriotism in the Olympics that no sport, not even the NFL, is ever going to capture." Burke: "Yes, we had people watch hockey and probably turn it off after that (gold-medal) game and never watch it again." However, Burke added, "I think far more watched it and said, 'I have to give this thing a try if I haven't already because it's pretty exciting and fun to watch'" (L.A. TIMES, 3/5).

A DIFFERENT GAME: USA Hockey Exec Dir Dave Ogrean said that the NHL is a "'different animal' from the Olympics, and that the Games' impact might be better felt at the grassroots level than at the gate or in the ratings for the NHL." Ogrean: "At the end of the day, you can't falsely generate interest." YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote the Olympic hockey fan is "not predisposed to become an NHL fan," as the Olympics and the NHL are "two different experiences, emotional connections and, in some ways, games." But Predators GM Dave Poile said of the Olympics, "I think it's going to have a dramatic effect on hockey" (, 3/4). In Columbus, Bob Hunter writes the NHL "has a terrific product that is largely unknown to a significant segment of American sports fans." There "aren't many effective ways to reach them, and the Olympics are probably the best." Hunter: "If the game is going to grow in this country, this is one of the best available ways to grow it. ... The NHL can't afford to ignore this kind of marketing opportunity" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 3/5). But's Art Thiel wrote the "difference between the Olympics' patriot party/spectacle, and the business of an NHL franchise/season, is the difference between a single date with a movie-star hottie and a marriage" (, 3/4).

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