So, what's NBC Sports Network drawing without the NHL?

US PRESSWIRE

A check-in on the ratings for the cable home of the NHL ... without the NHL.

It's been a while since we've checked in with the NBC Sports Network. Just how is the absence of the National Hockey League affecting the channel's programming, in terms of average viewing audiences on the network?

Well, it might be fair to compare the numbers from last week with viewer numbers from NHL games from a year ago. Let's take a look at the NHL audiences from Dec. 5-7, 2011 on VERSUS, and look at what the NBC Sports Network (renamed from VERSUS at the start of 2012) drew in primetime this year during the week of Dec. 3-9. In case you'd like to just see what the network did for every program last week, check out my old pal Son of the Bronx (who will be an immense help to this site yet again should hockey return).

First, the audiences for the NHL on VERSUS a year ago.

Dec. 5, 2011

Phoenix vs. Chicago, 8 p.m. ET - 302,000 viewers

Dec. 6, 2011

Detroit vs. St. Louis, 7:30 p.m. ET - 259,000 viewers

Dec. 7, 2011

Philadelphia vs. Buffalo, 7:30 p.m. ET - 585,000 viewers

Flyers-Sabres games were inexplicable gold for the network last year.

Now, NBC Sports Network's top 10 non-outdoor shows (this would get real sad and dull if it included outdoor programming) this past week (Dec. 3-9):

1. Saturday, Dec. 8, 10:24 p.m. ET - Fight Night Live - 216,000

2. Saturday, Dec. 8, 3:30 p.m. ET - Earl Campbell: Still Standing - 140,000

3. Sunday, Dec. 9, 1 a.m. ET - Fight Night - 107,000

4. Friday, Dec. 7, 7 p.m. ET - College Hockey: Michigan State vs. Notre Dame - 98,000

5. Tuesday, Dec. 4, 11:06 p.m. ET - Earl Campbell: Still Standing - 86,000

t6. Saturday, Dec. 8, 4:30 p.m. ET - Fight Night 36 - 79,000

t6. Thursday, Dec. 6, 7 p.m. ET - Fight Night - 79,000

8. Wednesday, Dec. 5, 1:05 a.m. ET - Earl Campbell: Still Standing - 77,000

9. Saturday, Dec. 8, 12:30 a.m. ET - NFL Turning Point - 70,000

10. Saturday, Dec. 8, 6 p.m. ET - College Basketball: Northern Iowa vs. George Mason - 68,000

Other Notables:

13. Thursday, Dec. 6, 9 p.m. ET - Costas Tonight - 61,000

14. Friday, Dec. 7, 9:30 p.m. ET - College Basketball: VCU vs. Old Dominion - 58,000

20. Saturday, Dec. 8, 8:25 p.m. ET - College Basketball: Villanova vs. Penn - 50,000

24. Wednesday, Dec. 5, 7 p.m. ET - College Hockey: Vermont vs. Dartmouth - 45,000

35. Tuesday, Dec. 4, 9 p.m. ET - College Basketball: Siena vs. St. Bonaventure - 33,000

38. Wednesday, Dec. 5, 9:12 p.m. ET - College Basketball: Penn State vs. LaSalle - 29,000

40. Tuesday, Dec. 4, 7 p.m. ET - College Basketball: Richmond vs. Old Dominion - 28,000

Notes:

  • So, other than outdoor programming and boxing, nothing NBC Sports Network aired in a week where it had live events Tuesday-Saturday, and a much-hyped (post-Belcher gun commentary) episode of Bob Costas' show came anywhere close to hockey from a year ago. In fact, only two non-outdoor programs NBCSN aired all week drew more than half of what the lowest-rated NHL game (DET-STL: 253,000) drew.
  • College hockey continues to show some growth on the network. The Michigan State-Notre Dame game drew the network's highest viewership for college hockey on record (98,000).
  • College basketball is a curious case. The network has added more of the sport than ever before, including some games with teams from power conferences. Yet, a CAA game between Northern Iowa and George Mason well outdraws contests featuring teams like Penn State and Villanova. Odd.
Overall, it's pretty obvious that the NBC Sports Network needs the NHL. This week featured no big improvements in programming, aside from coverage of extreme sports' The Dew Tour and a U.S. women's soccer friendly. Heck, a documentary (the well-worth-your-watch Earl Campbell: Still Standing) drew three of the top 10 audiences here, and the original airing was only the second most-watched! Unbelievable. Please come back, hockey.
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