Sharks-Chicago Western Conference Final ratings on Versus/NBC

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - Save & Share - One Comment

A few notes on television ratings for the Sharks-Blackhawks Western Conference Finals:

Game 1 – Sunday, May 16th. According to Sports Media Watch, NBC drew a 1.3/2.2 million viewers for the opening game of the San Jose Sharks-Chicago Blackhawks Western Conference Finals, down 19% over Detroit-Chicago game 1 in 2009. It was still the largest ratings figure and largest audience for a Stanley Cup playoff game broadcast on NBC up until that point. Chicago drew an enormous 11.2/27 overnight for the Sharks-Blackhawks opener, up from a 7.7/19 for the start of the Red Wings-Blackhawks WCF series in 2009. It was more than the Cubs, White Sox and NBA Boston-Orlando playoff ratings combined. KLIV NBC-11 drew a 5.6 in the Bay Area according to Puck the Media.

Game 2 – Tuesday, May 18th. Versus registered 1.5 million viewers for game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, down 15% from game 2 of Chicago-Detroit in 2009 (1.7 million). The performance of the NHL’s cable partner was excellent in the Chicago market, earning a 10.93 rating (382,000 households) according to Phil Rosenthal of the Tribune. It eclisped the Comcast Sportsnet Chicago alltime record of 10.14 set two weeks earlier in game 3 of the WCSF against Vancouver. According to Versus, the San Fran/Oakland/SJ market earned a 4.2HH rating with over 105,000 households. Nationally the broadcast averaged a 1.4 HH rating.

Game 3 – Friday, May 21st. The Versus broadcast of San Jose vs Chicago in game 3 drew a 11.52 household rating in the Chicago market, equal to 403,000 homes setting a new viewership mark. In the San Fran/Oakland/SJ local market, Versus averaged a 4.0 rating and over 101,000 households. Nationally Versus averaged a 1.4 HH rating and 1.571 million viewers. Overall, the Bay Area and Chicago markets made up 32% of the average number of viewers for the Friday night broadcast.

Game 4 – Sunday, May 23rd. NBC earned a 2.0/5 overnight rating (up 33% from game 4 of Det-Chi 2009, 1.5/4) as the Chicago Blackhawks ousted the San Jose Sharks in four games with a 4-2 win at the United Center. It was the highest rated indoor hockey game of the season for NBC (not including the Winter Classic at Fenway). The game averaged an impressive 14.1/32 in Chicago as the Blackhawks look to break a 49-year Stanley Cup drought in the Finals. KNTV-11 in the Bay Area drew a 4.4 for game 4, down 21% from the 5.6 rating in game 1. The Western Conference Final series finale outdrew every other sporting event on broadcast television Sunday according to the Sports Business Daily.

CSN California set a network record 6.57 rating, averaging over 164,250 households for the WCSF series clinching game 5 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Viewership peaked at a 9.14, and 229,000 as the Sharks were on the brink of slaying a perennial playoff and regular season roadblock.

Versus registered a 1.4 HH and 1.6 HH ratings for the first two games of the WCSF, 1.45 million and 1.77 million viewers respectively. The Nielsen live-plus-same-day numbers for game 2 resulted in the largest NHL Conference Semifinal viewing audience in history for Versus, and the largest Conference Semifinal audience for the last 10 years on cable.

“The Sharks have been one of the top teams in the league the past few years, but have never raised the coveted Stanley Cup… This year they’re the top-seeded team in the West with a roster full of household names battling against the Red Wings, one of the NHL’s most storied teams with multiple Cup wins recently, so it’s natural that games in this series will draw huge national interest,” Marc Fein, Versus EVP of Programming, Production and Business Operations told Sharkspage of the record audience.

Comcast Sportsnet California also saw a significant ratings boost during the first round WCQF series against Colorado, registering a 4.4 HH rating locally in game 2 and a 4.7 HH rating in game 4.

[Update] N.H.L. Playoffs on Versus Find a Growing Audience – New York Times.

[Update2] SMW Q&A with ESPN analyst Barry Melrose – Sports Media Watch.

SMW: How important is it for the NHL to have these two huge markets playing in Chicago and Philadelphia? How big do you think that is for the league right now?

Barry Melrose: It’s great, because when we lost Washington and Pittsburgh, everyone was saying doom and gloom, it’s going to be a terrible finals. Crosby’s out, Ovechkin’s out, no one will care. To get these two markets, these two great hockey franchises – an Original Six team like Chicago, Philadelphia Flyers one of the most famous franchises in the NHL – this is a home run for the NHL, almost a grand slam. We’re very, very fortunate that we’ve got these cities involved, but also, these two great teams involved…

SMW: This year, Versus has already aired the most-viewed first round of the playoffs on cable since 2001 and the most-viewed second round on record. How would you characterize the NHL’s popularity as a whole right now?

Barry Melrose: It’s going up. The game is the best it’s been in a long, long time. We’ve got a lot of great young stars, every team seems to have a superstar, 23, 22, 21 years old. I think the sky’s the limit for the NHL. I think these playoffs have done wonders, and the finals will be everything we’ve hoped for. I expect a long, hard finals, so I think that’ll be great…

SMW: You mentioned just now the TV contracts the NHL has with NBC and Versus. I think I mentioned earlier how Versus had the most-viewed first round and second round in a good number of years. A lot of people have said that the NHL needs to get back on ESPN. As an ESPN employee, do you think the NHL still needs ESPN, or do you think they can still be successful with the set-up they have now?

Barry Melrose: Well, I’m an ESPN employee, but I’m also a hockey lover. I want to see what’s the best for the NHL, for our game. Does hockey need ESPN to be successful? No. Does hockey need ESPN to become what it can become? I think it does. I think if you’re a national sport in the United States, you have to be on ESPN. I think it’s great for the sport.

People still come to ESPN for their sports. You can say what you want, we still do hockey every night. Yesterday, I did twelve things on hockey on all the platforms, starting at 9:00 in the morning with the early SportsCenter and ending at 1:00 in the morning on our late SportsCenter from Los Angeles. So we’re still doing a lot of hockey on ESPN, and people still come to ESPN for their news about hockey. I think for the betterment of the league and the optimum expansion of our sport, I think it needs to be back on ESPN…

SMW: Going off of that, being on ESPN provides you that great platform. A lot of sports fans who wouldn’t be watching Versus get to see you talking hockey every day on SportsCenter. There are some people who might say that you’re the most prominent hockey analyst in the states just by virtue of that platform. Maybe even like a Don Cherry of the United States. Would you agree with something like that?

Barry Melrose: Well, I’m a lot better looking and better dressed than Don Cherry. Gotta get that out there right away. But I would say so, yeah. If you look at the viewership for ESPN, non-hockey fans are watching SportsCenter. All of a sudden, this guy from Canada pops up, and they say, ‘this is the hockey guy.’ So I would definitely say that’s true. It’s something I take pride in, and something I work hard to cultivate, and something that I try to convey every night to people that aren’t hockey fans. So I try and entertain a little more than guys that are on hockey networks, but I think definitely that’s true that I’m the most watched hockey person in the United States. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.

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One Response to “Sharks-Chicago Western Conference Final ratings on Versus/NBC”

Pingback from Western Ratings Roundup: Hawks Crush Lost Finale, While Sharks Don’t Set the Bay on Fire « Puck The Media
Time May 26, 2010 at 9:01 AM

[...] to a 4.4 (about 101,000 households).  After a Game #6 victory over the Red Wings which drew a record 6.5 rating, you have to think the early losses triggered the loss of interest in the market.  The Bay Area [...]