Post Type:post 2016 NHL Playoffs | Viamedia

For ice hockey fanatics (and I am proudly one of them), the National Hockey League (NHL) Playoffs are synonymous with that ol’ Andy Williams Classic, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Mid-April is when hockey fans get to see the greatest players in the world give it their all in a grueling playoff system that rewards skill, teamwork, toughness (and maybe just a little bit of luck.) And based on last year’s games, over 60% of all that exciting playoff hockey was delivered on ad-supported cable television:

The NHL schedule is a mirror image of the National Basketball League. Thirty teams battle over the course of a grueling 82-game regular season (from October to mid-April) to see which sixteen teams qualify for the playoffs, which are then structured in precisely the same fashion: four rounds of best-of-seven games, leading to a championship team that needs to play anywhere from sixteen to twenty-eight playoff games. Last year’s Stanley Cup Champion (the Chicago Blackhawks) played twenty-three playoff games to assume the title – that’s more than one-quarter of an entire season of regular games!

But there the similarity ends.

Canada is the birthplace of professional hockey, and given that ice hockey in America is primarily confined to its northern tier of states (although there are several NHL teams located south of the Mason-Dixon Line), the NHL does not have the same broad appeal (nor television ratings) as the NBA.

But ever since the cable network, Versus, morphed into the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN), the ratings for NHL games in general — and playoff games in particular — have grown substantially. Last season, NBCSN (along with sister cable network, CNBC) delivered an average U.S. HH rating of 1.25 across 63 NHL playoff games. That’s nearly 70% higher than the playoff ratings just two years ago (in 2013):

As is the case with all nationally televised team sporting events, the local DMA ratings are substantially higher in those markets that have a personal stake in the game (i.e., their hometown team). In the June 8st, 2015 Game 3 Stanley Cup Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks, the Tampa Bay DMA rating was nearly 5-fold higher that the U.S. national rating (18.76 vs 3.84.) And in the classic hockey town of Chicago (whose Blackhawks are one of the “Original Six” NHL teams), the DMA rating was more than 9-fold higher – 35.7 rating!

But whether it’s the hometown team or not, one thing is certain about ratings nationwide: as the playoffs unfold and the stakes are raised, fan excitement — and ratings — rise from one round to the next:

Along with a growing, highly engaged audience, viewing to the NHL playoffs is decidedly upscale; indeed, the higher the household income, the higher the rating… it’s practically a straight-line relationship:

Local Cable Advertising Demand

Local cable advertising demand has been very strong for the NHL Playoffs. Over the past two  years (2014 & 2015), over 400 Viamedia clients ordered +6,600 :30-second spots across 53 markets (73% of Viamedia’s national footprint.) That comes to over 16 spots per client. It should be noted, however, that advertiser demand is highly concentrated in those large Viamedia markets in which hometown teams are participating in the playoffs. During the last two playoff seasons, over 90% of local advertising investments accrued to five markets (New York, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Philadelphia and Chicago.)

Source: Viamedia internal analysis of B.I.G.SM    database (Sports & High Profile Tracker module). Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Local cable advertising growth has been very strong with investments doubling from 2014 to 2015 (across the 37 markets that exhibited advertising during both playoff years.) But there is a caveat to that growth based on the fact that many more playoff games in 2015 were held in larger Viamedia markets. When we take into account the incremental number of NHL playoff games (as well as the change in subscriber growth in these Viamedia markets), we estimate that overall demand increase by 12% driven primarily by an increase in the number of :30-second spots.

Source: Viamedia internal analysis of B.I.G.SM    database (Sports & High Profile Tracker module). Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In terms of local cable advertising categories, the NHL Playoffs look a lot like most major sporting events, with automotive capturing the lion’s share of dollars (57%). The next four highest categories (Hardware & Home Improvement, Retail, Financial Services and Medical) combined account for nearly one-quarter of all investments:


Just in the Nick of Time!

For my family, the NHL playoffs arrive just in the nick of time. In the winter, we all lace up our skates and “shot dat puck” on neighborhood frozen ponds, which by April are too risky to step onto (unless you want a cold wet dunking… been there, done that.) But the streets in the northeast in April are way too gritty with sand and salt to switch over to our Rollerblades. So, along with millions of other fans in select markets around the country, my family is going to brew an extra pot of hot coffee; turn on the big screen; cuddle up in our New York Rangers fleece blanket and scream our bloody heads off for our hometown team! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!