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NHL, NBC Sports Group Drop Puck on 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

The National Hockey League faces offs its 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight with a trio of series openers and a new TV format that will for the first time in league history give every contest a national window.
Under the first year of its 10-year, $2 billion deal with the NBC Sports Group, every NHL postseason game will air nationally with NBC Sports Group linemates -- NBC, NBC Sports Network and CNBC -- in play for most of the action. Their coverage will be flanked by the NHL Network.

The new model is akin in many respects to what CBS and Turner Sports have constructed for their combined coverage of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship.

NHL COO John Collins said the new format will score unparalleled exposure for the puck sport's showcase season.
"In recent years, some 40% of Stanley Cup playoff games were not televised nationally," he said during a gathering of media on April 9 at the league's headquarters in Manhattan.
This expanded telecast presentation has been accompanied by NBC Sports Group's stepping over the boards in July to handle all NHL media sales for national properties -- NBC, NBC Sports Network, NHL Network, NHL mobile, and all official NHL digital sites, including

"Other leagues have bits and pieces of this sports sales model in place," said NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus. "Here, the league and the broadcaster are working together to develop this new model."
NBC Sports Group executive vice president, sales marketing Seth Winter said "this is the archetype of how deals should be structured."

Winter said the streamlining has yielded an unprecedented amount of NHL inventory: "We've added thousands of units across the entire season."
More importantly, the units have had strong appeal on Madison Avenue, yielding a 40% uptick in NHL media dollars for both the regular- and post-season, according to Winter.

Winter said the ability to offer a uniform sponsorship execution across all platforms has been a real plus in the marketplace. Collins noted there has been plenty of activation by NHL marketing sponsors for the playoffs, including Coors Light, which has installed beer taps, featuring the Stanley Cup logo, at 4,000 restaurants and taverns for the postseason.

Winter noted that commercial strips have been sold within the broadcast games, the national cable services NHL Network and CNBC, and the NHL Network, which is not yet rated by Nielsen.

NHL and NBC Sports Group officials believe that the national windows, with promotional pushes and mentions from the various networks and pair of studio shows, will lift ratings. Additionally, national exclusivity during the second round for the first time -- regional sports networks also aired contests during the conference semifinals under the old contract -- will boost the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs audience overall.

"The second-round exclusivity was a big part of the deal," said NBC Sports Group president Jon Miller.

Added Winter: "A lot of national audience comes from the local teams' markets. Now you get viewers from both participating teams' DMAs built into that national number."

As Nielsens grow and meet audience guarantees, Winter said the NBC Sports Group will be able to release more inventory for sales during the 2012 NHL postseason, while also establishing new benchmarks for ad sales skating forward.

2012 NHL Conference Quarterfinal Television Schedule
Wednesday, April 11
7:30 p.m.Phi @ PitNBCSN
8 p.m.Det @ NasCNBC
10:30 p.m.L.A. @ VanNBCSN

Thursday, April 12
7 p.m.Ott @ NYRNHL Network
7:30 p.m.Was @ BosNBCSN
7:30 p.m.SJ @ STLCNBC
10 p.m.Chi @ PhoNBCSN

Friday, April 13
7 p.m.NJ @ FlaNHL Network
7:30 p.m.Phi @ PitNBCSN
7:30 p.m.Det @ NasCNBC
10 p.m.L.A. @ VanNBCSN

Saturday, April 14
3 p.m.Was @ BosNBC
7 p.m.Ott @ NYRNBCSN
7:30 p.m.SJ @ STLCNBC
10 p.m.Chi @ PhoNBCSN

Sunday, April 15
NoonNas @ DetNBC
3 p.m.Pit @ PhiNBC
7:30 p.m.NJ @ FlaNBCSN
10:30 p.m.Van @ L.A.NBCSN

Monday, April 16
7:30 p.m.Bos @ WasNBCSN
7:30 p.m.NYR @ OttCNBC
10 p.m.STL @ SJNBCSN

Tuesday, April 17
7 p.m.Fla @ NJNHL Network
7:30 p.m.Nas @ DetNBCSN
9 p.m.Pho @ ChiCNBC

Wednesday, April 18
7:30 p.m.Pit @ PhiNBCSN
7:30 p.m.NYR @ OttCNBC
10 p.m.Van @ L.A.NBCSN

Thursday, April 19
7 p.m.Fla @ NJNHL Network
7:30 p.m.Bos @ WasNBCSN
8 p.m.Pho @ ChiCNBC
10:30 p.m.STL @ SJNBCSN

Friday, April 20
7:30 p.m.Phi @ PitNBCSN
8 p.m.Det @ NasCNBC

Saturday, April 21
3 p.m.Was @ BosNBC
6:30 p.m.NJ @ FlaNHL Network
7 p.m.Ott @ NYRNBCSN
7:30 p.m.SJ @ STLCNBC
10 p.m.Chi @ PhoNBCSN