Versus Nets NHL Playoff Highs

Versus continues to draw a crowd with its coverage of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, averaging 1.31 million viewers with its first four games of the Conference Semifinals.

The Comcast-owned network is on track to put up cable’s best NHL postseason deliveries in a decade. Through Sunday night, the network’s Semifinals deliveries are up 91 percent from last year’s 689,000 viewers. Male demos also are up significantly, including men 18-49 (up 69 percent) and men 18-34 (up 78 percent).

Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data, Versus on May 2 served up its most-watched Conference Semis telecast since it became an NHL partner, as Game 2 of the San Jose Sharks-Detroit Red Wings series drew 1.77 million viewers.

The Sharks on Saturday beat the Central Division runners-up 4-3 to take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series, in a game that delivered the biggest audience for a second-round contest since the Avalanche and Red Wings battled in front of 1.93 million ESPN viewers on May 1, 2000.

Also posting big numbers for Versus was the April 29 Sharks-Wings opener, which drew 1.45 million viewers.

The network’s first-round coverage averaged 595,000 viewers, making it the most-watched Conference Quarterfinals lineup since 2001.

Hockey is also drawing some heat to the NHL’s broadcast partner, as Game 1 of the Flyers-Bruins series and Game 2 of the Canadiens-Penguins Semis notched 1.6 overnight ratings on NBC this weekend. Saturday’s game was up 14 percent from last year’s Penguins-Caps opener, while the Sunday afternoon contest was about even with Game 2 of 2009’s Ducks-Wings Semis.

NBC averaged 1.72 million viewers with its four Conference Quarterfinals broadcasts, up 18 percent versus the year-ago 1.46 million.