SBD/May 8, 2012/Media

NHL TV Deal With NBC Universal Brings "Dramatic" Ratings Increase For Playoff Games

Collins praises NBC for televising all NHL playoff games on national TV
NHL COO John Collins and the league “have reason to feel bullish about the first year of their long-term deal with NBC Universal,” as the move to televise every NHL playoff game on either NBC, NBC Sports Network, CNBC and NHL Network “has produced dramatic results,” according to Ed Sherman of SHERMANREPORT.com. Ratings have “soared with more than a combined 60 million viewers tuning in to watch first-round games on either national or local outlets.” NBC Sports Net averaged 744,000 viewers for first-round games, up 16% from last year and the "highest numbers for hockey on cable since 2001.” Collins said, “We’re able to show the casual fan how unique the Stanley Cup playoffs are. They can see how tough the road is.” He added of the coverage, “It’s been very satisfying. The ratings are up. We attribute that to the way NBC has embraced these playoffs.” Collins noted one of the reasons the NHL signed with NBC last year and not ESPN was that hockey "would be the centerpiece of their entire programming (for NBC Sports Network)." Collins: "That’s not to say ESPN wouldn’t have devoted more time to hockey than they did in the past. But for (the NBC Sports Network), the Stanley Cup playoffs are their focus. They have dedicated all their time to building this platform.” Sherman wondered how the leagues increases "in the discussion on a national level.” Collins: “An important step was getting all the playoff games on national television. We checked that one off and go from there” (SHERMANREPORT.com, 5/8).

PEAKING EARLY? FORBES' Mike Ozanian wrote the Conference Finals "are going to be a much bigger test" for the NHL than the first two rounds of the postseason, as "most of the teams that generate high ratings will have been eliminated." The Penguins, Sabres, Bruins, Blues and Red Wings "led the league in local television ratings" during the regular-season, but none of the five will be in the Conference Finals. Further hurting the NHL’s "ability to continue to produce impressive television viewership figures" are that the Kings made it to the Western Conference Finals and the Devils "appear headed" to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 3-1 lead over the Flyers in their series. The Kings "had the 26th-worst television ratings among the league’s 30 teams this season while the Devils were 28th" (FORBES.com, 5/7).
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