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First-round action showing record gains for NHL

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First-round action showing record gains for NHL
The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue to capture the imagination of sports fans who are flocking to all things NHL in record numbers.
NEW YORK -- The first round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs was one of the most compelling, exciting and unpredictable in League history. Goal scoring was up significantly (most since 1996), 12 games were decided in overtime (most since 2001) and the road team compiled a record 27 victories.

The drama on the ice fueled substantial business success off the ice, highlighted by VERSUS seeing the most-watched first-round on cable in nine years, NBC earning its best ratings in four years, the Canadian television partners all seeing significant increases and NHL.com setting a monthly traffic record. NBC and VERSUS also combined for the highest average viewership in the U.S. in 10 years.

"The first round of the playoffs was dramatic and exciting, and our passionate fans consumed the game on television, online and in arena in a big way," NHL COO John Collins said. "Fans are enjoying the playoffs and we are now uniquely positioned to engage and serve them in ways we never have before, especially through our digital platforms."

VERSUS soars -- VERSUS' average viewership of 595,000 for the first round of the playoffs was the best for the NHL on U.S. cable in nine years (ESPN/ESPN 2, 608,000 in 2001) and 35 percent higher than last year (442,000), leading VERSUS to its best April prime time performance in network history.

VERSUS' first-round coverage averaged a .7 HH rating, up 75 percent compared to last year's Conference Quarterfinals (.4).

In addition, VERSUS earned the best first-round cable viewership in the key Men 18-49 demo since 2001 (ESPN/ESPN2) and the best in the Men 25-54 demo since 2000 (ESPN/ESPN2). The Men 18-34, Men 18-49 and Men 25-54 demo ratings all were record highs for VERSUS for the Conference Quarterfinal round.

This overall success is highlighted by the Montreal-Washington Game 7, which garnered a 1.2 household rating and averaged 1,151,000 viewers, making it VERSUS' highest-rated and most-watched first-round game in network history.

NHL on NBC -- Viewership for NBC Sports' four Conference Quarterfinal broadcasts (1.72 million viewers) was up 18 percent compared to 2009 (1.46 million) and the highest since 2006. The household rating of a 1.1 for the four games also is the best since 2006 and up 10 percent over last year (1.0). Last Sunday's Phoenix-Detroit game (1.1) was up 57 percent vs. last year's Washington-New York Rangers game (0.7).

Look who's watching -- 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 percent increase over last year.  The combined average viewership was the highest among females since 2000, the highest among Men 18-49 since 2001 and the most among Men 25-54 since 2000.

TSN viewership up 89 percent -- In the first round of the playoffs, TSN averaged 1.07 million viewers, 89 percent higher than its average audience in the first round of the playoffs last season 567,000.

CBC viewership up 50 percent -- CBC's Hockey Night in Canada had the program's highest overall average audience for Round One since 2004. Audiences to Round One in 2010 averaged 1.422 million. In 2009, Round One on CBC had an average audience of 951,000.

NHL on RDS up 12 percent -- RDS averaged 1.34 million viewers for the Montreal-Washington series, 12 percent higher than Canadiens playoff games on RDS last season.

First-round milestones -- The Washington-Montreal Game 7 was the highest-rated (1.2 HH rating) and most-watched (1.2 million viewers) NHL Conference Quarterfinals game ever on VERSUS and the most-watched NHL Conference Quarterfinals game on U.S. cable since Minnesota-Colorado in 2003 on ESPN.

TSN's audience of 2.8 million for the Washington-Montreal Game 7 was the highest audience ever recorded for an NHL game on TSN and was the most-watched program on Canadian television Wednesday night in all key demographics.  

The Montreal-Washington series ranks as the most-watched playoff series ever on TSN (any rounds) with an average audience of 1.8 million viewers over seven games.

Regional highlights -- The ratings across four Comcast SportsNets [Chicago, Mid-Atlantic (Capitals), Philadelphia and California (Sharks)] were up 30 percent over last season.

Digital dividends -- The NHL is engaging and connecting with more fans than ever on its digital platforms and the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs has continued that trend. Some highlights
from the Conference Quarterfinals:

* April was the most-trafficked month in the history of NHL.com in terms of unique visitors, surpassing 17 million
*  Video starts on NHL.com increased by 170 percent over the Conference Quarterfinal Round last  year
*  Unique visitors to NHL.com were up 43 percent
*  Page views on NHL.com were up 53 percent
*  Mobile page views were up 200 percent

Support the team -- In-venue merchandise sales volume for the first round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs increased by 14 percent compared to the first round in 2009.

Full houses -- Averaging 18,670 fans per game, these NHL Playoffs are playing to 101.4 percent capacity.

Well Said --  "The National Hockey League has firmed up its relationship with the ad community and viewing audience." – Variety

"The sport is enjoying a resurgence." – Mediaweek

"…this first round might be one of the most entertaining first rounds in NHL history." – USA Today

"Enthralling" – NY Times

Business blockbusters

* Corporate sponsorship was up 20 percent
* New League partners this season include Geico, Starwood Hotels, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, LG Electronics and Hershey's Canada
* Ad spending on NHL media increased by 37 percent over last season
* NHL.com ad revenue is up 50 percent over last year
* Revenue from big event platforms, led by the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, are up 22 percent over last season
*  Unique visitors to NHL.com surpassed last year's record by 32 percent
*  NHL Game Center Live™ subscriptions were up 25 percent
*  NHL Network subscribers have increased by 104 percent
*  Sales at SHOP.NHL.com were up 12 percent from last year's record
*  Viewership for NBC's Game of the Week telecasts were up 13 percent
*  Ratings for exclusive telecasts on Versus were up 20 percent
*  NHL Mobile™ reached 1.6 million page views, an increase of 233 percent over last season


Quote of the Day

I came into a team that had 65 points, that was at the bottom of the basement, a team that everybody wrote off as never going to be good. My goal is to go from the very bottom to the very top.

— Forward Brandon Dubinsky on signing a six-year contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets