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Record-breaking opening weekend for NHL demonstrates fan demand, reach and consumption

Friday, 10.15.2010 / 2:20 PM / News

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Record-breaking opening weekend for NHL demonstrates fan demand, reach and consumption
NEW YORK -- The National Hockey League, coming off its best business year ever, launched the 2010-11 season with record TV audiences in the U.S. and Canada and continued hypergrowth on its digital distribution platforms – further evidence of the strong worldwide demand for NHL content, the League's global reach and distribution, and the digital disposition of NHL fans. 

"Our fans worldwide have proven again and again that they have a voracious appetite for NHL content. The record numbers for the start of the season, on the heels of last year's success, are a strong indication that we have a compelling product and that we are super serving our audience through a variety of different platforms," said NHL COO John Collins. "Whether it's on TV, online, on mobile devices or through these new partnerships, we are reaching our audience in new and exciting ways."

Strong Demand Drives Record Rating for VERSUS, CBC

VERSUS dropped the puck on its sixth year of NHL coverage with the most-watched opening night game on U.S. cable in eight years and the most-watched NHL regular season cable telecast in six years. In Canada, CBC's HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA attracted record audiences for its Saturday night debut this weekend. The local RSN and national TV ratings through Sunday, Oct. 10 combined were up 5% from last year's opening weekend with 13.9 million gross viewers across North America. On a country by country basis, U.S. gross viewing was up 16% and Canada was up 2%.

New Partnerships Increase Distribution, Reach

In the lead-up to the start of the season, the NHL made a trio of significant announcements. The NHL and HBO outlined plans for a new series leading into the NHL's New Year's Day outdoor game, "24/7 Penguins/Capitals" Road to the NHL Winter Classic," a four-episode all-access series which chronicles the two fierce rivals. The NHL also became the first professional sports league with a dedicated presence on Foursquare, one of the leading social media innovators. And the League also has partnered with Stan Lee on The Guardian Project, a new franchise from the legendary comic book creator that will incorporate the identities of all 30 NHL teams into superheroes.

Deep Digital Experiences Drive Consumption from Tech-Savvy Fans

The NHL has the most tech-savvy fans in all of professional sports and their insatiable appetite for NHL content worldwide was once again proven through an explosive opening weekend for traffic on NHL.com and other digital platforms, building on the momentum from last season.

Highlights from the start of the season include:

* NHL.com scored the 2nd-most regular season video starts in its history on Sunday, October 10. Unique visitors to NHL.com increased 19 percent over last year's opening weekend and opening day drove a 13 percent increase over last season.
* Opening day video starts increased 131 percent vs. last year; opening weekend was up 209 percent.
* Mobile page views during opening weekend increased by 46 percent over the same period last year.
* Subscriptions to NHL GameCenter LIVE are up 30 percent over the same period last season; and the first day of the season drove the highest single-day subscription total ever.
* An expanding portfolio of mobile products for Google/Android, Blackberry, Nokia and iPhone drove hundreds of thousands of app downloads worldwide

NHL.com Traffic Highlights Growing Global Demand for the NHL

Unique visitors to NHL.com reflected the global fan demand for NHL hockey.

The top 10 countries in NHL.com traffic and their UV increases over last year:

1.    Finland +68 percent
2.    Russian Federation +58 percent
3.    Slovakia (Slovak Republic) +53 percent
4.    Germany +42 percent
5.    Czech Republic +37 percent
6.    United Kingdom +35 percent
7.    Switzerland +33 percent
8.    Sweden +27 percent
9.    Canada +15 percent
10.  United States +12 percent
   
VERSUS Scores Best Start to NHL Season Since 2002

VERSUS averaged 730,000 viewers for the season-opening game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, making it the best start to the season since 2002 and the most-watched NHL regular season telecast on cable since 2004. The game also was VERSUS' most-watched regular season game ever, surpassing the previous high set by the Pittsburgh Penguins/Detroit Red Wings telecast on March 22, 2010 (622,000 viewers).

Locally, VERSUS earned a 13.4 HH rating in Pittsburgh, making it the highest-rated regular season game in Pittsburgh in network history. The game also made VERSUS the number one network overall (among both broadcast and cable networks) in Pittsburgh. 

VERSUS' coverage of the Colorado Avalanche/Chicago Blackhawks game averaged 430,000 viewers, making it VERSUS' best regular season game ever with a post -9 p.m. ET start time and the most-watched season-opening late game. The game showed a 30 percent spike in viewership over the comparable second game of the 2009-10 season (332,000 viewers). 

In Chicago VERSUS garnered a 3.4 household rating, making it the network's highest-rated regular season game ever in the market. The game also made VERSUS the number one ranked cable network in Chicago. 

CBC's 58th NHL Season Debut Earns Record-Breaking Audience

CBC's HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA attracted record audiences for its Saturday night debut this weekend. An average audience of 2.251 million viewers tuned in to the first game of the evening featuring Toronto taking on Ottawa and Montreal taking on Pittsburgh, up 34 percent from the 2009-10 Saturday night season premiere of the program. The evening's second game, which pitted Vancouver against Los Angeles, ., attracted an average of 1.430 million viewers, up 26 percent from the first Saturday night broadcast last season. Both are the highest Saturday night debut audiences in the program's history.  Scotiabank Hockey Tonight drew an average audience of 569,000.

On Thursday, an average of 1.968 million viewers tuned in to see the Toronto Maple Leafs take on long-time Original Six rivals the Montreal Canadiens while in the nightcap, 1.013 million viewers saw the hometown Oilers defeat the Flames. The evening's pre-game show, NHL Face-Off, drew an audience of 601,000.

NHL Merchandise in Global Demand

* Through the opening weekend of the season, in-arena per capita sales for home openers was up 18 percent compared to last season, and average sales volume was up 27 percent.
* NHL Apparel wholesales are up 22 percent year-over-year July through October. 
* Total sales volume at regular season 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere games was up 22 percent compared to last season
* The Carolina vs. Minnesota game in Helsinki on Oct. 7 set a building merchandise sales record for hockey at Hartwall Areena
* Highlights include selling out of toques, Premiere and team ball caps, player t-shirts, and scarves. 

2009-10 NHL Business: Best Year on Record

Despite difficult global economic conditions, in 2009-10 the NHL posted its fourth-consecutive year of strong business growth, engaging with a record number of fans. The League generated record television ratings during the playoffs, saw triple digit increases across its digital platforms, added sponsors and experienced a 66 percent increase in advertising and sponsorship revenue, set merchandising sales records during the Stanley Cup Final and played to 102 percent of arena capacity for the postseason.

Quote of the Day

There's no discouragement in that room. There's no issues there at all to be honest with you. It's more about, 'Hey, it's opportunities for players.' And if we become that bad of a team because of one player, it's not a real good sign for our hockey club. So this is part of sports. It's part of hockey.

— Bruins coach Claude Julien on the loss of Zdeno Chara to injury
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