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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Playoff Ratings - The Tale of Two Bays

Okay, so where am I?

I just finished refereeing the kids in our belated Father's Day trip to see Finding Dory. Better than the first installment (Finding Nemo), the family movie was just the trick to soften stubbornness and unite the already close clan we are. Media bonds the family. All you have to do is put in the time. Yet, I am already digressing

Better than the original.
I spent the last couple of week's closely connected to Californian's Bay Area. Both the NBA Finals and the NHL's Stanley Cup Final were set in NoCal. Fans from both sports were ready to hoist the Bill O'Brien Trophy and Stanley Cup in the same week. Can anyone say dueling parades?

Alas (and much to my glee) both Bay Area teams lost in their home arenas in the deciding games. The NBA Finals captivated America. Take a look at these numbers:
  • Game Seven was was the most-watched NBA game this century, averaging 30.8 million viewers, and peaking at 44.5 million viewers with less than a minute left. 
  • Locally, the game notched the second-highest rating ever for an NBA game, with a 39.4 rating in San Francisco and 46.3 rating in title-starved Cleveland.
  • This year's Finals rematch has been a boon for ABC television. The network had its two most-watched series since it began airing NBA games in the 2002-03 season. But with the series extending to a seventh game, ABC topped an average of 20 million viewers for the series (20.16 million), 
The strong ratings for the 2016 NBA Finals capped a healthy ad market for the entire playoffs. Kantar Media reports an estimated $570 million was spent on advertising for the playoffs (April 16-May 30) leading up to the NBA Finals.

The same kind of positive news, however, cannot be reported by the National Hockey League.

Lebron James lifted the NBA ratings to the best in a decade.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the six-game series between the San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins averaged only just 4 million viewers and a 2.3 household rating. This was the third lowest-rated Final since 2006. Deliveries (viewers and household ratings) were down almost 30% when compared to last year's average (5.53 million viewers, 3.2 household rating), while the demo declined 22% to a 1.4 among adults 18-to-49. What does all of this mumbo-jumbo mean? It means that the NHL is a trouble.

Don't get me wrong, nothing broke right for this year's Stanley Cup Final. Take a look at this recipe for rating's disaster...

  • Bad Matchups. The Sharks vs. the Penguins. The Bay Area is hardly a hockey bastion, while Pittsburgh is one of the most despised franchises east of the Mississippi.
  • No US-Based Original Six Team. Ratings traditionally to soar when teams representing old-school, hockey-mad urban centers like Boston, Detroit, Chicago and New York are suited up in the final. In 2013, NBC posted its highest numbers in 2013, when the Chicago Blackhawks-Boston Bruins grudge match mustered up 5.76 million viewers, a 3.3 household rating and a 2.2 in the 18-to-49 demo.
  • The Schedule. The series hit the ice on the Monday after Memorial Day weekend, when TV viewing is as low as it gets (save Christmas) and played against game seven of the ratings mad NBA Western Conference Finals. 
  • Bad Network Choices. Games 2 and 3 aired on NBCSN, which reaches only 70% of all U.S. TV homes. Ratings dropped accordingly. 
  • Game of Thrones. Game 6, which wound up being the deciding game of the Final, was scheduled for Sunday night. What's the big deal? The game was forced to square off against Game of Thrones and the NHL was not ready to sit on the Iron Throne. The clinching game drew 5.41 million viewers and a 1.9 rating among adults 18-to-49, while the warring Westeros clans delivered a 7.6 million viewers and a 3.9 in the demo.

Ugh.

Tomorrow, I'll post my open letter to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the new owner of the expansion Las Vegas franchise on how to make hockey work in Vegas.

Of course, Gary Bettman got mercilessly booed as he presented the Stanley Cup. I'm sure NBC Sports was booing as well.