Fans of the Ducks may not be the only ones praying the Stanley Cup Finals end tonight. NBC executives are likely on their knees as well.Listen up NHL owners. Not only is the NHL out of the top four in sports (and our Commissioner admits that he is okay with that); but the NHL is DEAD LAST when it comes to sports/prime time t.v. ratings.
The Monday overnight Nielsen national ratings for the Ducks' 3-2 victory at Ottawa in Game 4 was a miserable 1.9, with a 3 share.
But that looks like gold compared to two days earlier, after Ottawa's 5-3 win in Game 3 on Saturday produced a 1.1 national rating and two share.
According to NBC's records, that matched the lowest rating the network ever had for a prime-time program - sports or anything - matching a rerun of "The West Wing" on July 23, 2005.
So what can NBC hope for to give the viewers at home any sort of reason to watch from here on out, aside from breaking out an episode of "Deal Or No Deal?"
Some old-time hockey brawling, according to Don Cherry, the iconic Canadian Broadcasting Corporation hockey analyst who appeared on NBC's broadcast during the second intermission Monday to stir things up.
"I hate to get NBC hacked and everything, but I'm told the reason they cut down (on fighting in the NHL) is because they want USA people to watch it. Families! Can you believe that? That is the dumbest thing I ever heard in my life," said Cherry, starting his argument by announcing that if he was the commissioner of the league he'd eliminate the instigator rule.
"NASCAR, where there's crashes ... football, kill the quarterback ... ultimate fighting . ... Who's kidding who? The National Hockey League, NBC and everyone in U.S. television are making a big mistake. We should go back to rock 'em, sock 'em. It would help the game and help your audiences."
Cherry added before he left the NBC airwaves with a reminder to the network's sports division chairman: "Remember Dick Ebersol, more fights, you'll get bigger crowds."
And what happens when the NBC contract expires? Are they going to renew for next year? No chance. Forget NBC. Everyone likes to rag on Versus. But why, in their right mind, would they re-up with the NHL? Some of their ratings are barely registering.
And everyone wants blame Versus. Trust me, a lot of this blame falls on the NHL's great Commissioner.
Sure, keep him around for some short-term successes owners. But there are simply too many short-term failures that have led to the gradual demise of the NHL.
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Update - Good stuff over at Sportsmediawatch:
The Sports Business Daily reports that several programs managed to outdraw the first three games of the Stanley Cup Finals. As a disclaimer, the fairness of comparing a sports program to a non-sports program is suspect (as I pointed out in the Spelling Bee/NBA column). That being said, falling to a fairly well-watched event like the Spelling Bee is far different from falling to reruns of Mama's Family on the ION Network.
"Game One ranked 58th among all TV programs on May 28, with its 0.5 U.S HH rating and average audience of 769,000 viewers, ranking just behind Food Network's 'Build a Better Burger' (807,000 viewers) and E!'s 'Sunset Tan' (795,000 viewers)."
"Game Two ranked 74th on May 30 with a U.S HH rating of 0.4 and an average audience of 576,000, placing it just behind a pair of episodes of "Mama's Family" on ION Networks (659,000 viewers and 620,000 viewers) and "VH1 All Access: Celebrity Parties" (578,000) (THE DAILY)."
Game 3 "fell below the movie "Meltdown: Days Destruct" on Sci-Fi Channel, which posted a 1.2 U.S HH rating and 1.963 million viewers from 9:00-11:00pm the same night."
It should be pointed out that Mama's Family aired on ION (formerly i and PAX), a broadcast network.
The most disconcerting part of this for the NHL may be the fact that Game 3 (on broadcast television) could not draw a better number than a movie premiering on the Sci-Fi Channel (cable).