NHL Playoffs: Versus Nets Best Opening-Night Audience


Versus found the back of the ratings net with its opening coverage of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.
The exclusive national cable home of the NHL averaged 534,328 viewers for its April 13 tripleheader, Versus' best opening postseason night in its six years of coverage, according to Nielsen data. The delivery was 12% above the first night of the 2010 playoffs.
The premiere of the postseason followed Versus' top season with the NHL since acquiring the rights for the 2005-06 season. Averaging a 0.2 U.S. rating and 353,000 viewers for its 53 exclusive regular-season games, Versus scored a 19% gain over the 2009-10 campaign. ESPN2 averaged 209,000 viewers during the 2003-04 season, the last year the NHL aired on the net. The 2004-05 season was shutout by a labor dispute.
Regionally, the puck sport's postseason also skated to a fast start. Comcast SportsNet scored a 6.2 rating in the Washington D.C. DMA, with its Game 1 coverage of the Capitals' win over New York. That now ranks as the club's second-highest rating in the RSN's history, behind the 8.1 market average for Game 7 of last year's first-round series vs. Montreal and was up 21% over 2010's first game against the Canadiens. In New York, where the 2-1 overtime thriller faced competition from the Knicks, Yankees and Mets telecasts, MSG Plus averaged a 3.4 local rating to score as the highest-rated conference quarterfinal telecast for the Rangers since 1997.
For its part, Root Sports in Pittsburgh recorded a 16.2 rating in the Steel City environs for coverage of the Penguins win over Tampa Bay.
Fox Sports Detroit pulled a 9.4 rating for the Red Wings Game 1 victory over Phoenix, while the Blackhawks drew a 5.1 on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, despite the defending Stanley Cup champions' Game 1 loss in Vancouver.