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NBC Gets Burned with NFL Championship Games

Do you hear that sound, that faint beeping noise that sounds like a heart monitor at a hospital?  The pulse was flowing pretty steady, but now it’s basically in that last moment between life and death?  That’s the buzz that NBC had gotten for it’s coverage of the NHL’s Winter Classic, and it’s dying.  Fast.  And the NFL is to blame.

The NFL’s Championship Sunday, while likely starting after the final horn sounds at Madison Square Garden this Sunday, was going to affect the NHL’s season premiere of the “Game of the Week”.  So, they bet on the two bigger markets (Boston and New York) over a match-up featuring a the Stanley Cup Champions, who happen to play in a market with no NHL team (Anaheim) and the market only one market where football is king (Dallas).  So, NBC bet the house, and boy did they lose.

This weekend saw the undefeated New England Patriots blow by the Jacksonville Jaguars and on to the AFC Championship Game.  Okay, everyone saw that coming.  I watched the Pats in person at Giants Stadium twice this year, I knew the moment I saw that they’d be in the Championship game.  The Pats could be out of it and still, the Bruins would be buried under the buzz of the Celtics.

Then, this Sunday, everyone was shocked when the New York Giants defeated Tony Romo’s Dallas Cowboys.  Wow.  I was so certain that I had the Giants pegged as a low-IQ team that couldn’t perform in the big game.  Guess I was wrong.  So now the opening day of The NHL On NBC features two teams who’s markets will be obsessed with football that day.  The only way it could get worse for Bettman and co. is if the Jets were in some alternate universe, and were good enough to make the AFC title game.

Now, all is not lost, hockey ratings obsessors.  Mind you that the AFC Championship Game, featuring Tom Brady’s Patriots against the upstart San Diego Chargers, starts at 3:00 PM, with the New York Giants-Green Bay Packers game not getting under way until some time after 6:30 PM (if Frank Caliendo keeps it short.  And he won’t), meaning that most football fans will likely be looking for something, anything to watch to pass the time prior to the game, or at least the pre-game coverage.  Why not your favorite hockey team?  Plus, there’s all those Jet fans who probably have no interest in Brady or the G-Men.  Then there are New York-based Cowboy fans, and they out-number us all by the thousands.  They need something to do in between a “Making the Cowboy Cheerleaders” marathon on CMT and plotting out their not-so-subtle plans to jam a large object through Jessica Simpson’s skull.

Chances are, however, that most football fans will, God forbid, spend time talking to each other, albeit about the game.  They’ll have their TVs tuned to ESPN’s pre-game coverage and their local radio station’s unending pre-shows.  NBC will have to find a way to make hockey seem important on the 3rd biggest TV watching day of the calendar year (As you may have heard, New Year’s Day and the Super Bowl are another).  Chances are, this does not bode well for the eternal optimists (i.e. me and a cashier at the Shop Rite in Nutley, New Jersey) about the NHL’s shot at making headway in the Nielsons.

On the other hand, getting tickets to the Devils-Leafs game that night won’t be hard.  Sweet.

RANG ONE OFF THE POST-SCRIPT: The NHL’s Winter Classic did not garner the 2.6 overnight rating that it did in the final ratings.  It ended up with a 2.2.  Say wha?  You might ask.  Well, the overnight ratings are the numbers from the Top 55 or so markets in America.  The final ratings are from every market in this great land.  That said, it still tied the final rating for Gretzky’s last game in 1999, and it drew 3.8 million viewers to a regular season hockey game.  It’s a victory folks.

Also, another small ratings victory came in a demographic that the NHL covets: Men ages 18-49.  The game drew a 1.8 among those “tech savvy males” you keep hearing NHL media spin-doctors talk about.  That beat out every bowl game, including the big-market Gator Bowl (Michigan vs. Florida) by 20 %.  Face it, pessimists, everything about that game was good for puckheads.

*Hat-tip to Paulsen at Sports Media Watch for the numbers. 

Filed in: | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: media, nbc, nfl, winter+classic


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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com