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Volume 25 No. 215
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NHL Regular Season On NBC Sports Net Down From Record-Setting Audience Last Year

NHL regular-season game telecasts on NBC Sports Network averaged 332,000 viewers in the first season of a 10-year TV deal between the two entities, down 5% from 348,000 viewers last season. The viewership mark from the ’10-11 season remains the net’s best since it originally acquired NHL rights prior to the ’05-06 season. The new TV deal also saw NBCSN air 90 exclusive games this season, compared to only 52 last year, which led a 16% increase in total viewership reach. For windows where NBCSN had NHL exclusivity (no competition from local RSN telecasts), year-over-year viewership did see an increase. The net averaged 460,000 viewers for those 24 telecasts, up 6% compared to 436,000 viewers for 25 telecasts last season. The season-opening Flyers-Bruins telecast was the net’s most-watched regular-season game with 874,000 viewers, marking the most-viewed regular-season game ever on the net. It was also the second-best audience for opening night on cable since ESPN’s Avalanche-Penguins opener in ’02. Twelve of the 90 games averaged over a half-million viewers this season, compared to only nine last season. Meanwhile, NBC’s viewership was flat at 1.6 million viewers for its slate of NHL games. The net had its lowest-rated Winter Classic this season with the afternoon Rangers-Flyers matchup. However, the net’s regional coverage on Feb. 19 as part of “Hockey Day In America” averaged 1.9 million viewers, marking the most-viewed NHL regular-season telecast, excluding Winter Classics, in six years.

NHL RATINGS/VIEWERSHIP TREND ON NBC
SEASON
GMS
RATING
VIEWERS (000)
'11-12
12
1.0
1,580
'10-11
11
1.0
1,621
'09-10
10
1.0
1,560
NHL RATINGS/VIEWERSHIP TREND ON NBC SPORTS NETWORK
SEASON
GMS
RATING
VIEWERS (000)
'11-12
90
0.2
332
'10-11
53
0.2
348
'09-10
52
0.2
297

LOCAL RATINGS: The Penguins led all NHL clubs in local ratings for the fifth consecutive season, averaging a 7.9 local rating on Root Sports Pittsburgh. However, with C Sidney Crosby out for much of the season, that figure was down 9% from last season. The Panthers had the lowest local rating among NHL teams, but did see a 40% jump from the last season, as the club made the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Figures for nine teams -- the Hurricanes, Predators and the league’s seven Canadian teams -- were not available. The Bruins ranked third overall this season with a 4.7 local rating, which also marked the club’s most-watched regular season ever on the net. The figure shattered the record set last season by 52% (3.1 local rating). The Blackhawks also set a new record on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, averaging a 3.1 local rating, which was up 12% from last season. The Rangers averaged a 1.0 local rating on MSG Network, marking the net’s best number since the ’08-09 season (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

TOP FIVE/BOTTOM FIVE NHL REGULAR-SEASON RSN RATINGS
NET TEAM
LOCAL RATING
Root Sports Pittsburgh Penguins
7.9
MSG Network Sabres
6.6
NESN Bruins
4.7
FS Midwest Blues
3.5
FS Detroit Red Wings
3.5
FS West Kings
0.4
MSG Plus Devils
0.3
FS Prime Ticket Ducks
0.3
MSG Plus Islanders
0.3
FS Florida Panthers
0.2
   

TWO LITTLE WORDS: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes the Maple Leafs should "extend a big 'I'm sorry' to the CBC for missing the playoffs for the past seven years." There is a "wide discrepancy between the Maple Leafs audience and that of Ottawa or even Vancouver" on the CBC. Numbers "vary over the season, but there can be no doubt that CBC would have had a chance to make more money flogging Toronto trying for the Cup." The net instead has "just two home markets to exploit" during this season's Stanley Cup Playoffs. It is a "major disappointment for an organization that has strained its budgets to accommodate rights to the supposed cash cow of NHL TV rights." A long run by the Canucks or Senators "would be a boon" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/12).

THE VOTES ARE IN: The CP's Scott Edmonds cites a recent Harris/Decima survey as indicating that 35% of Canadians "say they will be watching the playoffs either very or somewhat closely." But that "plunges to just 20 per cent in Quebec and soars to 55 per cent in British Columbia." Harris/Decima Senior VP Doug Anderson said, "It does seem to be the case these days that if Montreal is out of the playoffs ... that Quebec residents are a lot less inclined to be following other teams out there." Nationally, 64% of those surveyed said that they "won't be watching the playoffs that closely or not at all closely" (CP, 4/12).