Due to numerous factors -- the lack of a marquee series like Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia, a dearth of local broadcasts, beginning in the midst of a highly-rated NBA Playoffs -- the NBC Sports Network saw large drops for their coverage of the NHL's conference quarterfinals. It appears -- with no small thanks to some big market teams -- things are starting to pick up in the second round. The first two days of the conference semifinals have been very good to the fledgling network.
The top number so far came from Wednesday night's Game 1 between the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. The game drew 1.45 million viewers, the most for an NBC Sports Network broadcast in the 2013 post-season to date. The game drew a 0.7 among adults 18-49, also the highest rating in the demo for a Stanley Cup Playoff game so far this year. The game was the fifth-highest rated original program on cable in the demo on Wednesday night (behind both NBA games, Inside the NBA and Psych).
The large audience of the game stuck around to watch Liam McHugh, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones talk about the game. More than 770,000 viewers tuned in to NHL Live, which is one of the largest viewer numbers I've ever seen for the program, and I've been following hockey ratings since the 2004-05 lockout. The postgame show drew a 0.4 rating in the demo, drawing more young viewers than anything on Fox News in primetime.
Locally, the game drew a 10.4 in Detroit. NBCSN was No. 1 in the Motor City on Wednesday. The game scored an 8.1 in Chicago, just shy of the ratings for the Bulls elimination game on TNT (8.8). NBC Sports Network was No. 2 in Chicago for the time period. The 8.1 was up 15 percent from the last time the Blackhawks were in the Conference Semifinals in 2010 (7.0).
On Tuesday night, the Penguins and Senators opened the second round with 1.08 million viewers. The Pittsburgh victory was the first game of this post-season to crack a million viewers on American cable. The San Jose vs. Los Angeles Game 1 that followed it up held on to 625,000 of its viewers.
The city of Pittsburgh led the way, obviously. The Penguins hit a 21.7 rating in the Steel City, the highest ever for a second-round game on NBCSN (or either of its previous incarnations as VERSUS and OLN). NBC Sports Network was No. 1 in Pittsburgh overall. Sharks vs. Kings drew a 1.9 in Los Angeles, up 20 percent from the average in Hollywood for Kings vs. Blues last year. The Bay Area received a 2.7 rating, down 24 percent from the Sharks' semifinal average in 2011 when they played Detroit. NBC Sports Network was No. 2 on cable in both markets during the game.
The second round has averaged 1.05 million viewers through three games, up 40 percent from the NBCSN averaged through two days of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.