The NBC Sports Group has skated to a fast start with its coverage of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Broadcaster NBC netted a 50% increase in overnight ratings for its first three postseason telecasts this past weekend, while NBC Sports Network notched a 22% rise for its first two days.
This past weekend's three games on the Peacock -- Washington Capitals-Boston Bruins on Saturday April 14, and Nashville Predators-Detroit Red Wings in the early window on Sunday April 15, and the Pittsburgh Penguins-Philadelphia Flyers later on Sunday -- combined for a 1.8 overnight rating, up 50% from the 1.2 for the two games broadcast on the same weekend on NBC last year.
The Flyers 8-4 victory over the intra-state rival Penguins on Sunday, which gave the Broad Street Bullies a commanding 3-0 lead, scored a 2.3 overnight rating, up 77% from a 1.3 compared for Capitals-New York Rangers a year ago, according to Nielsen data.
That delivery marked the best overnight rating for a conference quarterfinal game since April 21, 2001, when ABC averaged a 2.5 for regional action and the best for any NHL playoff game, excluding the Stanley Cup Final, since the Alphabet net registered a 2.4 with the Colorado Avalanche-Red Wings conference final contest on May 18, 2002.
For its part, NBC's April 14 telecast of Capitals-Bruins battle generated a 1.5 overnight, up 36% from the comparable window game, Phoenix Coyotes-Red Wings, during the 2011 playoffs. Meantime, the Predators' 3-2 win over the Red Wings on April 15 drove a 1.5 overnight. That was up 36% from NBC's 2012 regular-season average, minus the Winter Classic and the inaugural Thanksgiving Friday matinee. There is no network comparison to last year as NBC only broadcast two games the first weekend of the playoffs.
As part of NBC Sports Group's 10-year, $2 billion rights deal, this is the first year in NHL history that all playoff games are being shown nationally.
On cable, average viewership on the NBC Sports Network, nee Versus, was up 22% to 600,000 for its first two days of telecasts on April 11-12, from 490,000 in 2011. (Other national data was available at presstime.)
Wednesday's and Thursday's combined coverage of the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on both NBC Sports Network and CNBC combined for a total audience of 5.37 million viewers, a 31% increase versus 4.11 million last year, when NBC Sports Network, then known as Versus, was the only channel to show games.
Games are also being televised on the 43 milion home NHL Network, which is not Nielsen-rated at this time.