NBC earned a 2.5 overnight Nielsen rating for the Bruins' OT win over the Capitals yesterday in Game Six of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, marking the best non-Stanley Cup Final game overnight in 14 years. The comparable Flyers-Sabres Game Six last year earned a 1.6 overnight. NBC also earned a 2.4 overnight for Flyers’ elimination of the Penguins in Game Six of their series. There was no comparable early-window game on Sunday last year. Saturday's Bruins-Capitals Game Five earned a 1.5 overnight, up from a 1.3 rating for the comparable Capitals-Rangers Game Five last year (THE DAILY). NBC Sports Group CMO John Miller said showing all NHL Playoff games on the NBC platform is “huge.” Miller: “We have multiple platforms all reinforcing each other, so it’s simply more shelf space ... and as a result of every game being on all the time, it puts us in where basically either a March Madness or an NBA has been where you’re able to see everything. As a result, people are finding the excitement of the game, they’re seeing more of it and clearly, the fans of those sports are watching it.” Miller noted NBCU “very aggressively cross-promotes on all of the channels” and the planning with the NHL began “back in the fall as the season was beginning to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs ... into something that’s competitive with the NBA Finals or March Madness.” Miller: “We’ve made a concerted effort to go after what we thought were the casual fans, the people that would be engaged in a hockey game and all the excitement that goes with real stakes” ("Sports Biz: Game On!," NBC Sports Network, 4/20).
SHARING THE SPOTLIGHT: YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote parity has "led to some fascinating hockey in the first round of the NHL Playoffs, but it's leading the League to an interesting test of its popularity in the U.S." The Red Wings and Penguins have already been eliminated, and large-market teams like the Rangers, Devils and Blackhawks are on the brink of being eliminated. Wyshynski asked, "Should this make the NHL and NBC more than a little nervous?" The pair has had an "incredibly fortunate run since 2008: Two Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins finals; then the Chicago Blackhawks' drought-snapping run against the equally Cup hungry Flyers; and then the Boston Bruins pulling a 64 share in a Game 7 to help NBC to huge ratings despite the presence of a Canadian team in the championship round." Meanwhile, the NHL and NBC "could end up with Florida vs. Nashville" this year. Wyshynski: "I actually see this as a chance for the NHL and its television partner to make a compelling statement." It is a "chance to make a statement about the NHL's surge in popularity not simply being tied to Original Six franchises playing for the Cup or outdoor hockey games." And it is a "chance for us to gauge how far the League has come since the lockout" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/22). Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan said of the NHL playoffs, “Is the league ready for a Nashville-Ottawa Stanley Cup Finals?” N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica: “That’s what happens in this league. You end up with Virginia Commonwealth against George Mason playing for the Stanley Cup.” Lupica said the NHL “makes their regular season look more and more irrelevant every year” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 4/22).
SAY WHAT? The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes play-by-play announcers are "always looking for the memorable victory call," and NBC's Dave Strader had an "unforgettable description" of the Predators’ win over the Red Wings in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Searching for a "catchy moniker to capture Music City’s reputation, Strader blurted out, 'Honkytown has taken down Hockeytown as Nashville wins the series four games to one!'" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/23). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Matt Yoder wrote Strader was "trying to play off the famous Nashville honky tonks for his closing call of the series, but honkytown implies something quite different." Yoder: "It's a shame, too, because he sounded so convincing in the delivery of that prepared series clinching line" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 4/20). In Vancouver, Stephen Shalagan writes, "We all know what Strader was trying to accomplish. Yes, Nashville is the epicenter of country music, and we all know he was shooting for something like, 'Honkeytonk,' or 'Honkeytonktown' but he reached for the stars, and ended up with 'Honkeytown'" (THEPROVINCE.com, 4/23).
IDENTITY THEFT: In Vancouver, Harrison Mooney notes while speaking with Fox Sports' Mike Dunsmore, Canucks D Kevin Bieksa pretended to be Canucks C Ryan Kesler "for the duration of the interview." Dunsmore mistook Bieksa for Kesler after the Canucks' Western Conference Quarterfinal Game Four win over the Kings, and Bieksa, "recognizing the gift-wrapped prank the moment he saw it, just went with it." Bieksa said of Dunsmore, "That guy's an idiot. It's his own fault if he can't tell the difference between an all-star centre and a plug defenceman. He shouldn't even be allowed in the room" (VANCOUVER SUN, 4/23).
IN PURSUIT OF PUCK: CBC Exec VP/English Services Kirstine Stewart said last week that she has "every intention of bringing back the National Hockey League to the public broadcaster when the current contract with the league comes due two years from now." Stewart said, "We’re going to. That’s our plan.” But the FINANCIAL POST's Jamie Sturgeon wrote Stewart's statement is "perhaps a brave face and false hope given her opponents." Both Rogers Communications Inc. and CTV-- now Bell Media -- were "already formidable foes before BCE Inc. bet on TV content to fuel its telecom businesses and acquired the network and specialty-channel operator, a strategy that has raised the stakes for all." Since being acquired by the "telecom giant last spring, the new Bell Media has lapped up sports broadcast rights left, right and centre in a race only Rogers has been able to keep pace with." The pair's joint $1.3B purchase of a controlling stake in Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment Ltd. in December "all but guarantees the Saturday night NHL games the CBC has been able to secure from the league for decades will be lost, some analysts say, either entirely or in part." Still, Stewart argues that the CBC "can compete" (FINANCIAL POST, 4/20).