Some thoughts on TV ratings


First, an FYI — comments are fixed so that you don’t have to be a blogger member anymore. Anyone can comment on my stupidity now!

Tony Gallagher (by way of Paul Kukla) wrote about the stumbling NHL TV ratings a few days ago, and no, it’s not another knock on Versus; instead, it’s a report from the Board of Governors meeting about how ratings are down across the board. As in, everywhere — local markets, even Canada. As for Versus, from what I have read, I believe their ratings are up, but I think that growth is in line with the percentage of homes they have expanded into.

The shocking thing is that TV ratings are down in traditional strongholds, such as Detroit. And in some places, such as Long Island, the ratings aren’t even a blip.

As Gallagher notes, TV ratings for all sports are pretty much down. I think the true test as to how to look at this whole thing is to look at TV ratings in February after the NFL season ends, then compare those numbers to the average loss of ratings of sports. It’s not terribly surprising that most sports are down — almost everyone I know only catches a fraction of TV broadcasts as they used to, since they have Tivo and online highlights. With so many games on TV and so many games in the regular season, it’s just not that critical to catch every moment of every shift or pitch or play anymore, regardless of the sport.

As for the NHL specifically, frankly, I’m really not that surprised that numbers are down from this point last season. I’m as die-hard as they come, and even I’m watching less hockey this season, and it’s not because I don’t love the game as much or find it as entertaining (sans a few teams). It’s just that last season, you had an entire continent of die-hards needing their fix after a year away. Like drug addicts craving for a hit, the die-hards came back glued to the game like salivating idiots for the first few months of the season.

So this year, it’s a little different. Like I said, I’ve watched less hockey and it’s not a lack of interest, it’s just that the burning need to watch every single moment possible isn’t there because, well, I didn’t have to deal with a year of no hockey other than NCAA. I’m sure a lot of other die-hards feel the same way.

I don’t think there’s a cut and dry formula for explaining ratings or boosting ratings — I just don’t think it’s a huge surprise that ratings are down. At the same time, I don’t think the league’s dreams of being accepted and building its audience is a pipe dream because the product is good right now and the right players are coming to the forefront at the right time.

ESPN refused to let the NHL buy advertising; word out of Bristol was that it was because they would technically be advertising another network. Makes sense, but the league’s gotta find a way around that to get to viewers. I haven’t watched any NFL on NBC, but that’s gotta be a prime synergy point for the league too.

ESPN was willing to go into a profit-sharing plan with the NHL similar to the one the league has with NBC, but the league obviously went with the big bucks with Versus. I wonder how the league’s profile would be if they went ahead and did that. You think those commercials with Sidney Crosby and Joe Thornton might make more of an impact if they were, you know, actually seen by people who aren’t already tuning in to watch hockey.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — the league must advertise on other places where casual sports fans will pick up the names Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin (and they should film my damn idea for a commercial). Exposure and repetition, combined with a good product will create interest.


2 Responses to “Some thoughts on TV ratings”

  1. 1 Pete

    Hey. This is Pete, one of the founders of Yardbarker ( I couldn’t find your email address, but I’d like to speak to you about the linking program that we’re doing with a bunch of sports bloggers. It’s basically a way for you to get a lot more sports fans reading your best posts. Would you mind contacting me at so I can email you with more info? Thanks.


  2. 2 jnovocaine

    Nice article. I had no idea tv ratings were so bad, but then again, my favorite team, San Jose Sharks, occasionally aren’t televised in their home market unless you have the expensive digital subscription from our local cable company (comcast sucks). I’ve ended up watching the gmaes on the internet via Yahoo. Not an idea choice, but it’s the only way to catch the game.

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