Versus Skates Fast With NHL Playoff Ratings

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Versus, which scored significant growth with its coverage of the National Hockey League’s 2007-08 regular season, netted a bevy of double-digit gains with the circuit’s opening playoff round.

During 26 quarterfinal games, Versus average a 0.4 household rating, a 33% increase from the similar stage in the playoffs a year ago, when it registered a 0.3 mark for 13 games, according to Nielsen Media Research data. Total viewership improved 24% to 349, 792 for those contests from 281,466 last season.

On the demo side of the ice, the Comcast Corp.-owned network, which renewed its NHL contract in January, notched a 72% rise among men 18 to 34 (107,957 vs. 62,882); a 65% uptick with men 18 to 49 (190,710 vs. 115,810) and 65% surge against men 25 to 54 (161,342 vs. 97,897).

Versus’ top shelf thus far: Game 7 of the Philadelphia-Washington series. When the Flyers advanced April 23 to play the Montreal Canadiens, Versus recorded its best-ever NHL quarterfinal telecast, relative to homes with a 0.7 average and 631,040 total viewers, as well as with men 18 to 49 and men 25 to 54, according to network officials.

Versus is also scoring with its Hockey Central program, which posted a 0.3 ratings averages, a 200% jump from a 0.1 mark in the regular season. That performance translated into 233,640 viewers on average, 166% more than 87,712.

With the upcoming semifinals, Versus will air a pair of exclusive games per series. During the conference finals, slated to face off May 8, Versus will have exclusive telecast rights for its games. The network’s coverage concludes with the first two contests of the Stanley Cup Championship, when NBC takes over.

The Peacock yesterday exercised its option to renew its partnership with the pro pucks league for the 2008-09 season.

NBC, which has a revenue sharing arrangement with the league, will continue to broadcast the NHL Sunday Game of the Week during the regular season, highlighted by flexible scheduling. Under the flex policy instituted this season, NBC can select from up to three games on Sunday afternoons. At least 13 days prior to the scheduled games, NBC, in conjunction with the NHL, selects one of those games as the "game of the week" to be broadcast during the NBC window. The other games remain available to the teams' regional carrier, but are not televised during NBC's broadcast window.

NBC will air eight of its nine Sunday afternoon games at 12:30 p.m.(ET). NBC also will offer extensive coverage of the playoffs and Stanley Cup Final series, up to 15 post-season games in all

NBC averaged a 1.0 national rating with the NHL this season, an 11% gain from the prior campaign. Among men 18 to 49, impressions grew by a third, according to Nielsen data.

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