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Paul Nicholson
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Monday, January 29, 2007



That is the Nielsen rating that the NHL All-Star game managed to draw last Wed night. Just 672,948 people. 474,298 households.

Honestly that is better than it could have been. After all, Gary Bettman (NHL commissioner) and allowed Versus (formerly the "Outdoor Living Network") to cover the game rather than NBC or another major network. ...And they decided to run it on Wed night, not a weekend. ...And decided to run the Young Stars and Skills Competition against the State of the Union address in the US. ...And decided to run the main All-Star game up against American Idol - the number one program on TV. The only worse decision would have been to put it up against the Super Bowl, or maybe make it an internet-radio-only broadcast.

Even in Canada they only drew a 1.2 rating. That's bad. It measured a 0.5 rating in the host city of Dallas. The best US city was Buffalo (which counts as Canada) with a 7.1 rating.

To give you an idea of how bad this really is...
Many people are writing about how attendance is poor in the NHL this year. We are certainly hearing about it in Nashville. Well, the league average for attendance is 16,954 per game. Assuming that on any given night one-half of the league is playing, that means there are 127,156 people who actually pay money and take hours out of their day to go watch a game in person. That isn't counting the people sitting at home watching the games on TV. I can just about guarantee you that on any given night, more people watch a hockey game than they did last Wed night.

I really wish they had done what they did several years ago and do a combined All-Star Weekend. Do it the same weekend as the NBA All-Star game. Years ago they had the advantage of both leagues being covered by the same network so it was an all-day programming block. It was great. At the time i a basketball fan living in a non-hockey city - but i watched the NHL All-Star game that year and really enjoyed it.

And what baffles me...Bettman just allowed Versus to pick-up not only next year's option to cover games (it was their option), but also every season through 2011. The only hope the NHL has now is to get NBC (or another network if NBC drops out) to cover more games on broadcast TV. They might have a prayer there if NBC's upcoming schedule does well. After all - NBC lost the NBA and their only other sports property now is covering football on just 16 Sun nights a year. And after all, NBC's first hockey game of the year got a 1.1 rating. And it was just a random early season game.

Oh - one more thing...Versus needs to do what every other sports broadcaster does and make arrangements for a flexible schedule. Just a guess, but in late March when the playoff race is heating up, i think they will regret having Minn vs. Phoenix lined-up.

Anyway...as soon as the NHL moves to a network that doesn't lead into games with Survivor reruns (yes - reality show reruns) and follow it up with angler fishing, i think they'll be doing better.

Just a guess.

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