NBC Sports Group network put plenty of viewers in the back of the Nielsen net during their coverage of the National Hockey League's conference quarterfinal round.
Versus scored cable's most-watched first NHL round in 17, while NBC's delivery was the puck sport's best in seven campaigns.
Meanwhile, the four Comcast SportsNets that aired their local NHL teams collectively generated a 22% vs. last year, with Chicago, Mid-Atlantic and Philadelphia posting viewership records.
For its part, the national cable network averaged 624,000 watchers, an 8% increase from Versus' 595,000 average during the opening round of the 2010 playoffs, according to Nielsen data. The network also recorded the most-watched quarterfinals for key male demos in eight years, including the best with guys 18 to 49 since 2001.
Versus' April 24 telecast of Game 6 of the Vancouver-Chicago series averaged 1.16 million viewers, the network's most-watched complete conference quarterfinal game, edging the 1.15 million who viewed the seventh game of the Montreal Washington series on April 28, 2010. The Vancouver-Chicago contest was the most-watched NHL quarterfinal game on cable in eight years, behind ESPN's presentation of Game 7 of Colorado-Minnesota, which garnered 1.24 million viewers on April 22, 2003.
NBC's four games over two weekends averaged 1.9 million viewers, the most since ABC aired two total games averaging 2.0 million viewers in 2004 and marked a 12% increase from last year's 1.7 million average.
The Philadelphia Flyers' Game 6 win over the Buffalo Sabres in overtime on NBC on Easter Sunday was watched by 2.57 million viewers, ranking as the most-watched NHL non-conference final game in 12 years. The viewership for the second weekend of games was also the best in seven years. The two games this past Saturday and Sunday averaged 2.1 million viewers, the most since one game in 2004 on ABC (2.2 million) and up 24% from last year.
During the first round, the aggregate average NHL playoff audience for four regional sports networks - CSN Chicago (Blackhawks), CSN Mid-Atlantic (Washington Capitals), CSN Philadelphia (Flyers) and CSN California (San Jose Sharks -- was 800,987 households, up 22% from last season.
The three highest-rated Blackhawks games in CSN Chicago history came during the club's loss to the Vancouver Canucks,, peaking with Game 7 which rated a 13.33 locally (467,000 households), peaking at 18.35 (643,000 households).
The Capitals first-round series against the Rangers became the highest-rated Capitals playoff series in CSN history, averaging 5.72 in the Washington D.C. DMA and a 2.57 in the Baltimore area for a combined average local audience of 165,000 households. The series also included the second-highest rated Caps game in Comcast SportsNet history.
The highest-rated Flyers game in Comcast SportsNet history (Game 7), delivered a 12.6 average rating (383,000 households) and peaked at 14.7 (446,000 households).
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