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Versus Nets 50% Viewership Surge With NHL Playoffs

After a strong scoring regular-season with the Nielsens, Versus is skating quickly among viewers with its opening- round coverage of the National Hockey League playoffs.

Versus, over 16 games through April 22, averaged a 0.4 rating, a 33% rise from 0.3 mark during the corresponding period in the NHL's 2008 post-season, according to Nielsen Media Research.

All told, the Comcast-owned service delivered 449,379 viewers on average, a 50% jump from 300,033 through 16 opening-round contests last year.

On the demo front, the competition channel registered a 39% gain among men 18 to 49 and a 52% advance among guys 25 to 54, according to Versus officials.

Thus far, Versus' top mark came from its coverage of the first game of the Chicago Blackhawks-Calgary Flames series on April 16. Joined in progress, the overtime contest, captured by Chicago, 3-2, averaged a 0.6 rating and 583,274 viewers.

At a minimum, Versus will televise 50 playoff games, depending on how the series break, with exclusivity skating in during the conference finals. Over 52 quarterfinal, semifinals, conference finals and a pair of Stanley Cup Finals games in 2008, Versus saw a 50% increase to a 0.6 average and a 58% surge in viewership to 661,669 viewers.

During its 56-game regular-season game coverage, Versus recorded a 21% increase in viewership to 329,794 from 272,417 in the 2007-08 season, according to Nielsen data. Officials said the network reached 32.9 million total viewers, its most-ever with the NHL, and improved its delivery among men 18 to 34, 18 to 49 and 25 to 54 by 51%, 43% and 41%, respectively.