By Mike Reynolds — Special to TVWeek
Over the first two nights NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the 2015 NHL playoffs is even with last year’s audience, tied for the programmer’s second-best start with postseason puck action.
Seven telecasts on NBCSN, CNBC and USA averaged 448,000 per game, according to Nielsen data, matching the delivery from the first two nights of the 2014 postseason. An eighth telecast was carried by non-Nielsen-rated NHL Network.
The numbers for 2014 and 2015 both trail 2012, but represented a 43% gain over the 313,000 average audience at the corresponding stage of the 2013 playoffs.
The performance came despite the participation of five Canadian clubs: Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver, versus just Les Habitants (the Canadiens) a year ago. None of the north of the border squads (only Edmonton failed to make the tourney) have hometown audiences that count in Nielsen columns. The 2015 postseason lineup is also hamstrung by the absence of the Boston Bruins and the NHL stronghold that is The Hub, and the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, neither of which qualified.
NBCSN’s top NHL Round 1 game showcased the New York Rangers’ 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, netting a 0.38 U.S. household rating and 597,000 viewers. Viewing peaked in the final quarter-hour (9:30 p.m. to -9:45 p.m.) with 922,000 vewers.
During the opening round, many NHL games also run on regional sports networks, with the telecasts blacked out from the national providers in the home DMAs. Indeed, the Rangers-Penguins affair averaged 476,500 watchers as MSG and sister service MSG+ simulcast the contest in the New York DMA.
Returning to the NHL ice for the first time since 1985, USA on April 16 drew a 0.37 for the New York Islanders’ 4-1 thrashing of the Washington Capitals, translating into 555,000 viewers. NBCUniversal is looking to broaden the audience and license fee for the general-entertainment channel by returning more sports to its lineup.
CNBC’s top telecast: Thursday night’s Detroit-Tampa Bay thriller — the Red Wings prevailed 3-2 — with a 0.22 and 348,000 viewers.
The author of this piece, Mike Reynolds, is a veteran media and sports reporter and was most recently the news editor at Multichannel News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-320-6532. We appreciate Mike making this piece available to TVWeek.