NHL Winter Classic Overnight Up Slightly; NBC Sports' Jon Miller Talks Outdoor Games
NBC yesterday drew a 1.9 overnight rating for the Blackhawks-Blues NHL Winter Classic, up slightly from a 1.8 overnight last year for Canadiens-Bruins, which aired on New Year's Day. However, Blackhawks-Blues is down from a 2.3 overnight for Blackhawks-Capitals in '15 and down from a 2.9 for Maple Leafs-Red Wings in '14. This year's Winter Classic -- traditionally played on New Year's Day -- was the first to be on Jan. 2 since '12. Yesterday's game drew a 15.5 local rating in St. Louis -- NBC's best figure in the market for an NHL regular-season game -- while Chicago drew a 7.4 local rating. Figures for NBC's Red Wings-Maple Leafs NHL Centennial Classic on New Year's Day were unavailable at presstime.
DOUBLE THE PLEASURE: NBC Sports President Jon Miller said the net was completely supportive of the NHL's idea of holding two outdoor games during the New Year's weekend when it was first discussed. Miller said, “We still wanted to protect the Winter Classic -- and it’s not going to be a regular occurrence that you’ll have two games -- but it’s just because New Year’s Day happened on a Sunday this year.” Yesterday's game in St. Louis avoided a potential rain delay, but Miller acknowledged the game could have been moved to NBCSN if it had been pushed into primetime. NBC last night premiered the Arnold Schwarzenegger-led “Celebrity Apprentice” and aired a new episode of the LeBron James-produced game show “The Wall.” The Winter Classic would have had to end before 7:00pm CT in order for NBC to keep the game on its broadcast network. “NBC Sports is just one part of a big company, and there’s other issues. ... We want to try to protect primetime.”
PEACOCK PRIDE: NBC this season will air the NHL All-Star Game, the first time since the company acquired its NHL rights in ’05-06 the game will air on the broadcast network and not NBCSN. Last year’s All-Star Game from Nashville drew an average of 1.595 million viewers, the highest yet for the event on NBCSN, but Miller pointed to several additional factors for the move to broadcast. “The timing of it is strategic in the sense that you’re not up against any major NFL football, so you kind of have the stage to yourself, which is what we want.” Meanwhile, with some major sports properties splitting their broadcast rights, NBC and the NHL maintain an exclusive relationship. Asked about whether keeping that exclusivity is a priority for the network beyond the current deal, Miller touted the value he believes only his network can offer the NHL. “Different sports have different mandates and have different requirements and different imperatives. But for the NHL, having someone who will put them first and front and center more than anything else, like we’ve been able to do with them, I think is very important to their owners.” He added, “Clearly we love this partnership, and I think they do, as well.”