SBD/Issue 157/Sports Media

Versus Continues Seeing Audience Increases For NHL Playoff Games

Pens-Senators Game Six Marks Versus' Most-
Viewed NHL Telecast For '10 Playoffs To Date

Versus is averaging 552,000 viewers through Sunday night's NHL Stanley Cup Playoff telecasts (12 nights), up 24% from 445,000 viewers for the same period last year. The series-clinching Penguins-Senators Game Six last Sunday marked the most-viewed telecast during this year's coverage of the Conference Quarterfinals, averaging 788,000 viewers. Versus is also up in demo ratings among males 18-34 (+5%), 18-49 (+10%) and 25-54 (+23%). The NHL Playoff telecasts helped Versus earn its most-viewed April ever in primetime. The net's 391,000 average viewers were also up 22% from primetime in April '09 (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). SPORTSNET.ca's John Shannon noted Versus' numbers "do not include the local markets, where the network is still blacked-out," so their viewership numbers are "very positive." However, Shannon wrote the numbers are "quite small for a nation of more than 100,000,000 households." The Maple Leafs by comparison "exceeded the 800,000-viewer mark a total of five times during the regular season, on a regional basis which would be measured in approximately 35[%] of Canada's 11,000,000 households" (SPORTSNET.ca, 4/25).

HOT UP NORTH: The CBC for its NHL Conference Quarterfinal coverage averaged 1.422 million viewers, up from 951,000 viewers for the first round last season. The 1.422 million viewers also marked the highest overall average audience for the net's first-round coverage since '04. The CBC's most-watched first-round series was Canucks-Kings, which averaged 2.031 million viewers (CBC). In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich wrote as the first round of the postseason nears its conclusion, it is still "not clear whether CBC made the right call" in choosing to show Penguins-Senators over the Canadiens-Capitals series. However, the CBC "didn't fare too badly" in the first round, as the Canucks "haven't disappointed in the ratings" The net averaged 2,826,000 viewers for its coverage of Sunday's series-clinching Canucks-Kings Game Six. The CBC also averaged 2,948,000 viewers for its coverage of Penguins-Senators Game Six, "upwards of a million viewers more than" TSN drew for its coverage of Friday's Canadiens-Capitals Game Five. Zelkovich wrote no matter which net "wins this round, there's no doubt that CBC has the upper hand in the next," as it "gets the first two picks" of which series to air during the Conference Semifinals (THESTAR.com, 4/27).

RECORD SETTERS: Comcast SportsNet Chicago averaged a 9.24 local rating (323,000 HHs) for its coverage of Monday's series-clinching Blackhawks-Predators Game Six, marking the net's highest Blackhawks rating ever. The 9.24 record tops the previous all-time record rating of 7.82 set by last year's series-clinching Blackhawks-Canucks Western Conference Semifinal Game Six (CSN)...NHL.com Sunday set a single-day record for both unique visitors and video starts. The record-breaking totals added to the most-trafficked month in the site's history. Through Sunday, unique visitors to NHL.com during the playoffs were up 33%, video starts were up 141% and mobile page viewers were up 167% (NHL).

FOLLOWING THE LEADER: THE HOCKEY NEWS' John Grigg wrote ESPN last week "offered so little hockey coverage it was disheartening." The net offered "wall-to-wall MLB, NBA and even MLS highlights and a weekend of NFL draft coverage," but Grigg wrote he "can't recall even catching an NHL highlight on SportsCenter." The lack of coverage "drilled home" why the NHL "must get back on ESPN: it needs the exposure." Grigg: "Sure the cable giant will hold the hammer in any negotiations, but who cares? Every small business -- and the NHL is small in the grand scheme of North American sports -- is beholden to Big Brother in some way" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 4/27).

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