Culminating with Game 7 of the Montreal Canadiens-Washington Capitals series, Versus netted the highest-rated and most-watched first round of the National Hockey League playoffs since 2001.
Comcast's national sports service averaged a 0.7 household rating and 595,000 during the conference quarterfinal round, according to Nielsen data, respective gains of 75% and 35% through the same stage of the 2009 NHL postseason. That performance helped Versus scores its most-watcher ever April in primetime.
Officials reported that more half of the contests delivered upward of 500,000 viewers, with nine of the network's top 10 first-round games transpiring over the last two weeks, topped by the 1.2 rating and 1.15 million viewers who saw the Canadiens upset the Capitals. Those were the best numbers Versus with the first round and the most-watched first-round game on cable since Minnesota-Colorado on ESPN in 2003..
Additionally, the 2010 conference quarterfinals were also the most-watched among men 25 to 54 on cable since 2000.
Versus was hardly alone in tallying with NHL viewers. NBC averaged 1.72 million viewers for four telecasts, 18% more than 1.46 million in 2009 and its most for the opening round since 2006. The quartet posed a 1.1 average, the most since 2006, and 10% more than last year.
Combined, NBC and Versus averaged 742,000 viewers per telecast, the most since ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 averaged 750,000 viewers in 2000 and a 24% increase over last year, according to NHL officials. The combined average viewership was the highest among females since 2000, the highest among men 18 to 49 since 2001 and the most among men 25 to 54 since 2000.
As reported, four Comcast SportsNet regionals -- Philadelphia (Flyers), Mid-Atlantic (Capitals), Chicago (Blackhawks) and California (San Jose Sharks) -- averaged a combined 635,520 households in the first round, 30% more than last year. CSN Mid-Atlantic recorded its highest-rated NHL game ever, with Game 7 of Caps-Canadiens delivering an 8.1 in the Washington DMA, despite the home team's ouster.
North of the border, TSN averaged 1.07 million viewers, up 89% from its 567,000 average for the first round of the 2009 playoffs. TSN's audience of 2.8 million for the Washington-Montreal Game 7 was its biggest audience ever for an NHL game on TSN and was the most-watched program on Canadian television Wednesday night in all key demos. Moreover, the Montreal-Washington series ranks as the most-watched playoff series ever on TSN for any round, averaging 1.8 million viewers over the seven games.
For its part, CBC's Hockey Night In Canada posted its best first round since 2004, with 1.42 million watchers on average, a 49% jump 951,000 last year.
RSN Resau Des Sports, which reaches some 2.5 million French-speaking homes, pulled in 1.34 million watchers for its coverage of the Canadiens-Capitals, up 12% from last year's playoff average.