By Alan Pergament
Inquiring minds want to know: How much is Western New York rooting for Ryan Miller now that he is in goal for the St. Louis Blues in the playoffs against South Buffalo’s Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks?
The primary evidence -- television ratings -- indicates WNYers are more interested in the Blues-Blackhawks series than any other Stanley Cup first-round series.
But we're not talking huge numbers for the best market in the country for televised hockey outside of a few playoff cities.
Here's the results through Monday' night's games: According to NBC, the Buffalo market is No. 1 for cable coverage on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and CNBC with a 1.7 household rating average for first-round games blacked out in the participating teams' home markets. Thanks largely to the Miller-Kane series, that's 42 percent higher than Buffalo averaged for the same period in 2013.
Buffalo also is No.1 among non-playoff markets with a 3.7 average rating for the three games televised on NBC last Saturday and Sunday. That is up 28 percent from a year ago. Understandably, the Boston, St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit markets -- which all have teams in the playoffs that have been on NBC -- have higher average ratings than Buffalo for NBC's games.
The Blues’ 4-3 triple overtime victory over the Blackhawks Thursday in Game 1 of the series had a 3.7 rating on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN). Interestingly, the game had a 3.8 rating until 11 p.m. and a still solid 3.5 rating in the overtimes from 11 p.m. through 12:30 a.m. In other words, there were a lot of bleary eyes at work on Friday morning.
The Blues' 4-3 overtime win Saturday in game two of the series on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate, had a 4.4 rating.
Games on Channel 2, a broadcast channel, are expected to have higher ratings than cable games. Game 2 might have had a higher rating if it hadn't been played opposite game one of the Golden State-Los Angeles Clippers first-round series of the National Basketball Association playoffs. The basketball game had a 2.2 rating on ABC affiliate Channel 7, half of the hockey rating.
The Blackhawks' 2-0 victory over St. Louis in game 3 Monday had a 2.0 rating on CNBC. That was lower than the 2.2 rating for Memphis' overtime upset of Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City in a NBA playoff game televised by TNT at the same time.
That makes it appear than the area may be slightly more interested in the basketball playoffs, but there is an asterisk. The Blackhawks-Blues game also was on at the same time as Pittsburgh's game with Columbus that had a 2.0 rating on NBCSN. In other words, hockey was competing with itself.
However, the idea that WNY is primarily a NHL town and isn’t all that interested in the NBA took a minor hit Sunday when the two sports played at the same time on broadcast channels.
The victory by LeBron James and the Miami Heat over Charlotte had a 3.5 rating on Channel 7. That was slightly higher than the 3.4 rating for the Detroit-Boston Stanley Cup game at the same time as the Heat game, and the 3.2 rating for the New York Rangers game with Philadelphia three hours earlier. Both hockey games were carried by Channel 2.
Those figures make it appear that interest in the early rounds of pro basketball and pro hockey can be pretty equal here if James and Durant are playing. That's unless Miller and Kane are playing hockey.
Not surprisingly, the NHL's playoff games get much stronger ratings here when they are on the NBCSN. It appears many WNYers don’t realize that CNBC is also carrying them or they can't find the business channel.
The NBCSN received ratings in the high 1’s and the low 2’s for several games. The four first-round games on CNBC last week averaged a 1 rating.
Those figures sound low. But ratings here on NBCSN and CNBC are impressive in a country that prefers hoops to hockey.