Versus skated to its largest opening-night audience with its coverage of the National Hockey League, even without a distribution from DirecTV.
The exclusive cable television home of the NHL averaged 832,781 viewers for its Oct. 1 doubleheader presentation of the Boston Bruins-Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche-San Jose Sharks games. The 2009-10 season marks Versus' fifth year covering the pro puck sport.
According to Nielsen fast national data, Capitals-Bruins netted a 0.55 rating, up 12% from the 0.49 mark for last season's Detroit Red Wings-Toronto Maple Leafs game. The Oct. 1 contest now ranks as Versus' top regular
season contest, according to network officials.
The nightcap notched a 0.37 average, 37% more than the 0.27 for Bruins-Avalanche game last season.
Versus, which enjoyed its best NHL campaign last season with the Nielsens, got off to the fast start last night, without being carried by DirecTV. The Comcast-owned national sports network's contract expired with the leading DBS provider on Sept. 1 and the parties remain at loggerheads over pricing and positioning.
"Despite DirecTV shutting out millions of hockey fans from seeing last night's games, Versus still garnered its best NHL regular season opening night ever," said Versus president Jamie Davis in a statement. "The momentum of this network has not slowed down at all and we're doing everything we can to reach an agreement with DirecTV to ensure that hockey fans won't continue to miss the terrific match-ups we have on our schedule all season long."