24 February, 2010

Olympic Hockey Rules The Day for Canadians and Ratings

As the 2010 Winter Olympics roll on in brilliant and beautiful Vancouver on Canada's west coast the event most prized in the eyes of the host nation is the Men's Ice Hockey competition. The Games of these Olympiad have moved through tragedy and difficulty towards triumph and as the competition settles in for its 2nd half there is plenty of more excitement in store.

CTV, owned by CTVglobemedia, the television network in Canada with the rights to televise the Olympics, much like NBC in the US, has several programming partners helping to deliver a full slate of live events to Canadians across the country. This standing in stark contrast to the much maligned and debated NBC approach of tape-delaying full events so they can be shown in prime time.

So back to Canadians and the love for ice. The Men's Hockey competition, featuring a who's who of the National Hockey League was the spotlight event of these games, and viewership certainly hasn't disappointed so far. In the preliminary round a marquee match-up between the host Canadians and strong American team became the most watched television event in the history of Canada, with an Average viewership of over 11Million and a peak of 13Million.

To put this in perspective, 33Million people live in Canada, meaning 40% of the country was watching a preliminary round game. America's yearly spectacle that is the Superbowl just attracted the largest audience in history at over 100Million, a slightly lower percentage. Is hockey a new marketing power? In the US the game was shown live on cable network MSNBC and it drew almost a record in terms of viewership, only bested by election night coverage of now US President Barack Obama. The Olympics have been a ratings win for NBC and its affiliates and for the company, despite the swelling online-community grumbling over tape-delays, viewers are coming out to watch the network's coverage.

Average ratings are sitting in the US at about a 14.5, meaning about 26Million viewers, which is up 20% for the last Olympics Games in Turin, but expectantly down from home-hosted Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002. NBC had even beaten American Idol and have become the most dominant Olympics in terms of ratings wins. A good breakdown of the numbers can be found at The Crowe's Nest (Link).

While the numbers are very good, they still pale in terms of coverage that the Canadian networks have been receiving for their hockey broadcasts and analysis. For the Canadian Men to go for Gold they have to play and win 4 games in 6 nights and if they get there, CTV can expect home run after home run in their coverage and with their advertisers. One down for the Canadians yesterday and today's Match-up with the Russians in the Quarterfinals looks to break even more records in the domestic market. How much would a network rake in if it could broadcast a Superbowl 4 times in 6 days? This is why in this country, in the end, hockey rules the day.