It probably took CBC about 14 seconds to choose which rounds they'll cover in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As national TV rights holder in Canada, CBC had its choice of series. After losing the two remaining Canadian teams in Round 1, Hockey Night In Canada was all over the Washington-New York Rangers and New Jersey-Philadelphia series like a hungry wolf on a lamb chop.
Yes, the two Eastern series have the higher possibility that the games will not all end 1-0 or 2-1. (The nets are likely to be boarded up in the stingy West after the skill teams said adios.) But the real reason that HNIC is going early and then going home is contained in a press release they issued Friday.
In trumpeting record regular-season ratings for HNIC, the release bragged, "Leading the way was the Saturday Prime East broadcasts, with an unprecedented average audience of more than 2 million viewers per game – this is the highest average for these games since metered measurement began in 1989-90."
Even without Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa in the playoffs, it's ET Come Home for HNIC if it wants to mitigate the ratings loss from those Canadian Eastern Conference teams from the playoffs. As we have pointed out, CBC compounded the impact of losing all its Canadian teams by holding back advertising inventory for sale on later rounds, gambling that Vancouver or Ottawa would make another deep run in the postseason.
The gamble failed, and so TSN is getting the late-night shifts while CBC tries to maximize its audience before the Eastern and Atlantic markets head to bed.
TSN wasn't complaining about their lot in the first round when it seemingly had nothing but one-goal or overtime games (overall the NHL had a record 16 overtime games and 32 one-goal games). Ratings were up 41 per cent over last year. Now if they can just keep Gord Miller and Chris Cuthbert alive with their brutal travel schedules...
NBC also was proud as a, well, peacock, as it averaged 929,000 viewers across NBC, NBC Sports Network and CNBC, making it the most-watched Round 1 on record since record were kept in 1994. Thursday's Game 7 between the Capitals and the Boston Bruins was watched by 1.32 million viewers on the NBC Sports Network, making it the most-watched NHL Conference Quarterfinal game on cable in 12 years.
Better Luck Next Year
Interesting question from P.J. Stock on HNIC Radio on Friday. Stock looked at the first-round failures of so many experienced playoff teams (Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Vancouver, Pittsburgh) and wondered if some of the teams might just said, "No mas".
"You lose weight, you lose muscle mass, you go home to sleep, you've got no life," Stock said. "There was no push [from those teams]" Stock wondered if the lassitude shown by both last year's Finals teams Vancouver and Boston is not linked.
Extending Stock's logic, might those teams have looked at the throwback refereeing standard cited last week by Vancouver GM Mike Gillis and said, Live To Fight Another Day? Put yourself in the place of a skill player in these playoffs after seeing the injury churn in the first round for puck carriers and tell yourself you want another six weeks of risking having your head taken off. For $100K max? Just saying. Or, P.J. Stock is saying.
The Tip Off
For this weekend's NFL draft, the league wanted its host networks ESPN and the NFL Network not to tip off upcoming picks by showing draftees getting congratulatory phone calls or having their draft experts scoop commissioner Roger "Bear Hug" Goodell. Nice notion, NFL, but have you heard of this thing called Twitter? Anyone interested could have found almost every first-round pick tipped on Twitter before Goodell even cleared his throat. Although NY Jets and Seattle Seahawks fans probably wished they hadn't found out their picks in advance-- or ever.