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Comcast Regional Sports Nets Score NHL Ratings Gains

The Washington Capitals sport Alexander Ovechkin and the fourth-best record in the National Hockey League. But its regional sports network, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, scored the biggest ratings increase during the 2008-09 NHL season for telecasts through April 2.
Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, which aired 66 Capitals games through April 2, saw its ratings improve 96% to a 1.12 average in the Washington DMA from a 0.57 average a year ago, according to Nielsen Media Research data.
Comcast SportsNet Chicago registered the second biggest advance, as its coverage of the resurgent Black Hawks over 53 games jumped 78% to a 1.12 average in the Windy City from a 0.63 mark last season.
SportSouth was third, recording a 73% gain for 56 Atlanta Thrashers games -- albeit from a very low base of a 0.15 in the 2007-08 campaign to a 0.26 mark in the current campaign.
NESN was next with a 71% surge to a 2.44 average in the Boston DMA for 65 Bruins games, compared with a 1.43 average. The club, at press time, had the NHL's second-best mark this season.
FS Ohio scored the fifth-highest increase, a 56% gain to a 1.79 average in the Columbus DMA with 70 Blue Jackets contests, while Comcast SportsNet Bay Area was sixth with 48% growth to a 1.38 average for 67 San Jose Sharks games. The Sharks had the league's best record this season.
All told, MSG, despite a 3% drop, still recorded the highest average for an RSN with the NHL, scoring an 8.07 mark in the Buffalo DMA with its coverage of the Sabres. FS Pittsburgh, owned by Liberty Media, was second, growing 9% to a 6.28 average in Pittsburgh over 64 games. The Penguins, last year's Stanley Cup runner-up, averaged a 5.75 rating in the 2007-08 season.
Despite having the defending champion Red Wings, FS Detroit saw its ratings decrease 16% from a 4.78 average last season. Still, the RSN was third this year through 60 games, with a 4.0 average in "Hockey Town."
On the down side, MSG Plus has the double whammy with its coverage of the New York Islanders -- the team with the NHL's worst record this season. MSG Plus sustained the biggest ratings hit of any RSN with hockey, dropping 21% to a league-low 0.19 average, albeit in the nation's largest DMA.

For its part, national cable carrier Versus continues its momentum with the puck sport, scoring double-digit gains in viewers and key demos.

The NHL regular season ends April, with the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, slated to face off April 15.