SPORTS

Five Canadian teams in playoffs lead to TV ratings jump for Rogers

04/30/2015 11:16 EDT | Updated 08/09/2015 02:59 EDT
TORONTO - The big winner through the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs may be Rogers Media.

The Toronto-based company, which paid $5.2 billion for exclusive national rights to all NHL games for 12 years, saw ratings jump 36 per cent over last season's first round, according to Canadian ratings company Numeris.

The games were broadcast on Sportsnet, CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" and on Rogers' digital platform GameCentre Live. Numeris took the survey of viewers across Canada age 2-plus between April 15 and 26 (and so excludes Wednesday's final game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings).

The ratings were clearly boosted by the number of Canadian teams in the first round. Games featuring those five teams — the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens — averaged 2.4 million viewers per game.

Last year, only the Canadiens made the playoffs, so the boost in opening-round audience numbers isn't a big surprise. CBC and TSN broadcast the games in 2014, the last year they owned the rights.

This year's Montreal-Ottawa Round 1 series, aired on CBC with Rogers collecting all the advertising revenue, averaged 3.2 million viewers per game. That's a 57 per cent boost from the last time these two teams met in the first round in 2013. Last Sunday's deciding game between the Habs and the Sens drew an estimated average audience of 3.763 million viewers.

In the west, the series between Calgary and Vancouver drew an average audience of 2.2 million viewers per game. The series between the Winnipeg Jets and the Anaheim Ducks averaged 1.4 million viewers per game.

The news was also good on the digital side. The Montreal-Ottawa series was the most-watched series on GameCentre Live, with the number of video plays ranging from 110,000 to 130,000 over the run of the series.

Rogers says the average number of daily, unique users for their streaming service is up approximately 60 per cent compared to the regular season. That's on top of a 400 per cent boost over last year's numbers, before the new broadcast deal took effect.

The bad news for Rogers is that three of the five Canadian teams were eliminated during Round 1 and the Jets, Canada's Cinderella team at the start of the post-season, were swept in four games.

Vancouver's elimination also sees the loss of Canada's second-biggest market.

Before the start of the playoffs, Sportsnet head Scott Moore said digital was a key component in the company's overall strategy.

"I can't overstate how important GameCentre Live is to our company," said Moore, the president of Sportsnet and NHL properties for Rogers. "The wireless guys look at the GameCentre stats every day the way I used to look at the overnights (TV ratings)."

Round 2 was slated to begin Thursday night with Washington Capitals facing off against the New York Rangers (CBC, 7:30 p.m. ET) followed by Calgary at Anaheim (Sportsnet, 10 p.m. ET). Friday night, CBC will have Montreal taking on Tampa Bay at 7 p.m. CBC will stick with the Canadiens throughout the second round of the playoffs. Later on Friday, the Minnesota Wild begin their series against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sportsnet.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version identified Moore as president of Rogers Media instead Sportsnet.

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