Nielsen 2011 NHL TV Ratings Report

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By Dave Cunning

Nielsen, home of the Nielsen Ratings that every TV network worries so much about, published their 2011 Year In Sports ratings findings recently.

What in the world is this? Well, in their own words, it’s this:


BetOn_Hockey_Nielsen_Logo_.jpg“...a compilation of media highlights, advertiser trends and consumer insights across leading sports properties.  Nielsen provides our industry with a wealth of consumer and market intelligence... to develop a deeper understanding of what and how fans “watch” sports content and what they “buy”.  Nielsen is committed to meticulous tracking of fan sentiment, engagement, purchases and media consumption, helping brands understand the value and impact of their investment in sports media and sponsorships and drive more effective decision-making.

Basically they track what fans like in order to help advertisers’ commercials actually get watched, and to dupe said fans into becoming consumers of what the companies are peddling. Download the entire .pdf report for free here:  

Here’s some of what they discovered about the NHL in 2011:


BetOnHockey_NHL_NBC_Versus_TV.jpg-The 2011 Winter Classic between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins was the NHL’s most watched event in the US, drawing 4,525,000 viewers. The Stanley Cup Finals between the Bruins and the Canucks drew 4,572,000 viewers – over seven telecasts (an average of 653,142 a night. The report gets a little hazy, and goes on to note that game seven drew 8.5 million viewers, so I assume that is internationally, whereas the former stat is only from the US). Apparently that outdoor game is pretty popular after all. Good for that particular event (and for HBO 24/7’s ratings and market research team), I suppose – but I can’t see how it’s good that a gimmick one-off game is being viewed more than the championship final of the entire sport. What’s not so good is that the 2012 Winter Classic between the Rangers and Flyers drew 3,739,000 viewers, which might mean that the gimmick is starting to lose its nostalgic allure.   


BetOnHockey_Wayne_Gretzky_1.jpg-On a scale of 0-200 (aka the N-Score, an in-depth look at thousands of sports figure’s overall endorsement potential, factoring in the attributes and demographic measures that align brands with endorsers using the combined research expertise of Nielsen and E-Poll Market Research), where a score of 200+ makes you a Hall Of Fame attention drawer, 100-199 makes you a Superstar, 50-99 makes you an MVP, 30-49 makes you an All-Star, and less than 30 makes you a Starter, Martin Brodeur was the NHL’s most marketable player nationally --- with a Starter score of 14. Comparatively, Serena Williams scored 847 amongst just African-Americans, Tom Brady scored 328 amongst Hispanics, Roger Federer got a 252 from Asians, Peyton Manning recorded a 273 from Caucasians, and a slough of other active athletes in other sports scored higher than 14, making them apparently more popular amongst minority people groups than hockey players are across an entire country that is comprised of all those people groups together. Wayne Gretzky, 51 years old and retired for 13 years, scored 203. Sidney Crosby dropped from a 26 to an 11 nationally, but is a 414 in the city of Pittsburgh. I guess this is kind of like Nielsen’s version of a city/highway fuel economy comparison of a player’s popularity.  


BetOnHockey_Columbus_Blue_Jackets.jpg-The only sporting events of 2011 the NHL seemed to be more popular than were the NBA Draft, Round 64 of NCAA Basketball,  LPGA events, and some Women’s Soccer. Hockey was viewed far less than a number of other Women’s soccer events, and everything the NFL, NBA, MLB, PGA, and Motor Sports televised. In perspective, fans were nearly just as interested in Derek Jeter getting his 3000th hit as they were in who was going to win the Stanley Cup. Le Sigh.  


-The New York Rangers were the most “buzz mentioned” team, with 543, 331 buzzes (Buzz volume represents individual posts online that mention selected keywords/names on Blogs, Message Boards/Groups, public posts on Twitter and Facebook, Video and images sites and news websites) The least buzzed about were the Columbus Blue Jackets, with only 66,533. 

So there’s a bunch of numbers for you to mull over. It seems to explain why the Superbowl gets all the good commercials. But what do you think? Are they right on? Way off? Does having your viewing habits monitored in order to exploit your potential buying weaknesses make you feel violated?  


Read Dave’s blog at and follow him on Twitter @davecunning



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