by PuckStopsHere on 06/07/09 at 03:24 AM ET
The biggest outdoor hockey party in the world in 2009 has been killed on orders of the NHL. The Pittsburgh Penguins have had a big screen viewing party for many of their playoff games as possible outside Mellon Arena. The problem is that the NHL doesn’t want this. NBC has complained that the games broadcast on their station suffer apparent rating drops due to this big screen. Since the NHL’s only stream of money from the NBC telecasts is a share of advertising revenue, which is dependent upon the game’s Nielsen ratings, they have killed these parties.
Nielsen ratings count the number of television sets that are tuned to the game. They do not count the number of people actually watching the game. Thus one screen with thousands of viewers counts the same for them as one screen with one viewer. This is a rather poor methodology, because obviously many people watching a screen means many people watching the commercials and more likely to buy the products advertised.
However instead of attempting to adapt the methodology to counting viewers, NBC wishes to maximize the less meaningful metric used for advertising revenues. If there is no big screen at Mellon Arena, some of the thousands of people that would be in attendance would not bother to watch the game. Fewer total eyes would be on the NBC broadcast and their commercials. The important difference is more TVs would be on. Many of the people at the outdoor viewing party would now be watching the game at home.
Games three and four had viewing parties in Pittsburgh. Those games were not broadcast on NBC. They were broadcast on Versus and Versus did not object to the viewing party. NBC holds the rights to the final three games, so there are no more viewing parties. The big screen has gone silent.
Very little is gained from this exercize. The total number of people watching the game is actually reduced. The quality of the viewing experience for those people who would have been at the big screen party is reduced. Despite that, more money is made (at least in the short term). That little bit of more money is worth getting rid of one of the great experiences in the NHL today. It is worth reducing the chances of the Pittsburgh viewers from spending money on the NHL - as a good day at the big screen viewing party would increase their loyalty to the team. That is how the NHL works.
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