by Paul on 04/13/09 at 01:55 PM ET
NEW YORK, N.Y. (April 13, 2009)- VERSUS, the network that celebrates real competition and the exclusive cable television home of the National Hockey League (NHL), will kick-off its wall-to-wall coverage of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Conference Quarterfinal round beginning Wednesday, April 15. The network will start the night with a special playoffs preview Hockey Central show at 6:30 p.m. ET followed by game one of the series between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7 p.m. ET. At 10 p.m. ET VERSUS will televise the first game in the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks series. VERSUS will air coverage of all rounds of the playoffs, including games three and four of the Stanley Cup Final. All games in each round will be produced and presented in HD where available.
Now in its fourth season as the exclusive cable television home of the NHL, VERSUS enters the 2009 postseason with double-digit viewership growth for the 2008/09 regular season as compared to the 2007/08 campaign. Total viewership showed an increase of 21 percent and household impressions were up 23 percent, while viewership for all key male demos also showed substantial increases: Men 18-34 (up 51%), Men 18-49 (up 43%) and Men 25-54 (up 41%). The network’s coverage of the 2008/09 NHL regular season reached 32.9 million total viewers, the most ever for an NHL on VERSUS regular season (up 13% from last season).
“VERSUS is heading into the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs with tremendous momentum. In 2008, the network not only aired some of the most-watched NHL postseason games on cable since 2002, but was also the fastest growing cable sports network in the country. That growth continued this year resulting in substantial viewership increases throughout the regular season,” said Marc Fein, Executive Vice President of Programming, Production and Business Operations for VERSUS. “When you combine all of VERSUS’ successes with the momentum the NHL is currently seeing, we’re extremely excited to get this year’s postseason underway.”
Each night throughout the postseason, VERSUS will televise at least one game, however most nights during the first two rounds will feature a doubleheader. In the Conference Quarterfinals, VERSUS’ coverage is non-exclusive and subject to local blackouts. In the Conference Semifinal round VERSUS will air two exclusive games per series and during the Conference Finals the network will air exclusive coverage of both series. The total number of games will vary depending upon the length of each individual series. VERSUS will, when feasible, simulcast games from Canadian networks to give viewers bonus postseason action.
VERSUS’ 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage will culminate with games three and four of the Stanley Cup Final. This is a change from the past three seasons as VERSUS previously aired games one and two of the Final. NBC will broadcast games one and two of the Final as well as games five, six and seven, if necessary.
VERSUS will air its dedicated NHL studio show, Hockey Central, each night the network televises a game. Throughout the 2008/09 regular season, compared to year-ago figures, VERSUS’ Hockey Central telecasts doubled in ratings and saw a 34-percent increase in total viewership. Hosted by Bill Patrick with Brian Engblom and Keith Jones, Hockey Central provides extensive insight and commentary of the games and what’s happening around the NHL in the 2009 Playoffs. Some of the regular segments of Hockey Central include: highlights from all the games being played as well as Plays of the Week; a telestrator segment in which Engblom will breakdown and discuss plays in a visually engaging manner; Parting Shots, where Engblom and Jones debate bullet point debate topics in rapid fire fashion; Live-Look-Ins wherever possible, bringing viewers live action from games being played concurrently during VERSUS’ telecast; and features on NHL players away from the ice.
Each night VERSUS airs a game, the network will deliver a condensed highlight version of the game via the network’s VOD platform. These will be available the morning after game play, so that hockey fans who may not have seen the previous night’s game won’t miss any of the postseason action.
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