Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Under Further Review: NHL Playoffs versus NBA Playoffs

Comparing the NBA and the NHL is like comparing apples and oranges.  You can try, but you just cannot do it.  However, when they are both battling for the eyes of sports fans everywhere in primetime, it is difficult to not compare.  The differences in the viewing demographics of the NBA and NHL are wide, but they are competing for the same general sports fans just looking for a good game to watch.

Last weekend was a good look at the ratings for the two leagues during these playoffs.  On Saturday, the NBA had the New York Knicks playing the Indiana Pacers in game six of the Eastern Conference semifinals in primetime, while the NHL had the Detroit Red Wings playing the Chicago Blackhawks in game two of the Western Conference semifinals in the early afternoon.  On Sunday, the two leagues swapped time positions as the NBA had the Memphis Grizzlies play the San Antonio Spurs in game one of the Western Conference finals in the afternoon while the NHL had the Pittsburgh Penguins play the Ottawa Senators in game three of the Eastern Conference semifinals in primetime.  The New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins also played in the NHL Eastern Conference playoffs on Sunday afternoon.

The NBA had a solid weekend relative to the rest of the competition.  According to SB Nation, the Knicks-Pacers game with an 8:00 p.m. start time took home a 4.1 rating on Saturday, while the Grizzlies-Spurs game with a 3:30 p.m. start time took home a 3.9 rating on Sunday.  Saturday's game aired on ESPN and Sunday's game aired on ABC.

(For more on last weekend's sports television ratings, check out SB Nation.)

According to SB Nation, the NHL lagged far behind as its Sunday primetime game featuring the Penguins and the Senators received a  1.1 rating, while the early 1:00 p.m. for the Red Wings and Blackhawks on Saturday received a 1.4 rating. The Saturday game was shown on NBC and the Sunday game was shown on NBCSN.  The Rangers and Bruins received a 1.9 rating on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. on NBC for the NHL's biggest audience of the weekend.  It should also be noted that the Penguins were the highest rated team regionally in all of sports.

Also concerning was the fact that ABC's Sunday edition of NBA Countdown at 3:00 p.m. earned a 1.4, the same rating at the NHL's primetime game.  But, if there is a reassuring rating, it is that the game that featured New York and Boston received solid ratings as they were two of the bigger media markets.

Although the fact that the NBA beat out the NHL is not surprising, what is surprising is that game one of the Western Conference final between the Grizzlies and Spurs beat out hockey while posting ratings that were the lowest since 2007 for a conference final game one.  Certainly working against ABC is the fact that Memphis is a small NBA market and San Antonio is not much bigger.  Memphis has a population of a little over 650,000, while San Antonio has a population of 1.36 million (US Census Bureau).  The Spurs are also battling the stigma against them of being too fundamental and too boring to watch despite being a top team of the past decade.

The Miami Heat have been the biggest television draw of the NBA playoffs so far.  With fans of all kinds tuning in to watch the Big Three, the Heat took home 4.8 overnight rating in game four of their relatively boring series against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Game one of the NBA Eastern Conference finals tips off tonight at 8:30 p.m. on TNT with the Miami Heat hosting the Indiana Pacers.

Ratings information was from SB Nation.

Which league's playoffs have you watched more?


Kevin Rossi is a pre-junior Drexel Sport Management major with a minor in Communications. Kevin has worked at Double Eagle Golf where he is now Social Media Coordinator and Comcast-Spectacor as their market research intern. Since joining the SMTSU, Kevin has worked his way up the ladder to Vice President. Currently, Kevin is a staff writer for, and he has joined Temple University Athletics Communications for co-op this spring/summer.  Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

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  1. I've been watching both a good bit, but I think the NHL has had series that are intriguing and have ongoing storylines. It's hard to beat series with historical clout like WAS-NYR, BOS-NYR, LAK-SJS, DET-CHI,OTT-MON, and TOR-BOS. It's a lot of big markets with ongoing rivalries (this was the third straight year New York and Washington met in the playoffs, for example. Lots of fire).

    I enjoy the NBA, but there just haven't been those sort of series at the same clip. Memphis-San Antonio has some of that, but lacks the big media interest, comparatively to the BOS-NYK series.

  2. The reason I have been watching the NBA rather than the NHL (which is super rare for me) because I have been super intrigued by the new, young teams making waves in the playoffs. The Pacers are a structurally strong team that play basketball really well, which I really enjoy. They play the game the way it should be played. The Grizzlies have players that are ready to hit the mainstream as big name stars, in Mike Conley and Quincy Pondexter.

    So I think people often watch the NBA for the highlight reel plays, the big dunks, and the flashy-ness. I appreciate real basketball, which is often lost in the NBA.

  3. I have always been a fan of the NBA over the NHL and Kevin I think you make a great point with your comment. I am waiting to see if team basketball will be able to beat the Miami heat and their superstars. As you mentioned the Pacers play the game right, as a team. Also, the Grizzlies have young talent but what they are best at is team defense. Finally we have the Spurs who are the old guys but anyone can step up and they are wonderful to watch when it comes to moving the ball on offense. As a lover of the "team" game, I am hoping one of these teams can knock off the Heat like the Mavericks were able to do a couple of years ago.

  4. Good points, guys. Personally, I just happened to be a bigger basketball fan, so I watch the NBA more. I am surprised though that the NBA's are as low as they are. Maybe it's the markets (especially in the west).