What happens when you hype a game to death and only a few people watch? That’s what happened Monday night as Versus could only muster 198,000 viewers to watch Sidney Crosby’s return game on November 21 against the New York Islanders. That’s among the lowest numbers of the season for Versus.
So what happened? Perhaps the biggest reason for the small number is the fact that the game was blacked out in Pittsburgh and New York. The game drew a massive 15 rating in Pittsburgh. That’s a significant amount of viewers lost which would’ve really helped Versus.
Secondly, the game faced stiff competition. Between football, college basketball and one of network TV’s strongest nights, its tough sledding on Monday nights. This likely brought numbers down.
Next, you have the blowout factor. The game wasn’t competitive. I ended up turning the game off after the first period and only flipped back to it every once in awhile for this reason. The Caps/Yotes and Bruins/Habs games were more entertaining from a purely balanced perspective. My eyes were largely glued to those games. I think that many people checked out the game but kept flipping around the dial.
Finally, you have the Crosby backlash. While there’s plenty of people who wanna hear about Sid’s every move, there’s plenty that aren’t as interested. The hype was too much for those people. Those who were most interested (fans in Pittsburgh) couldn’t watch the telecast so perhaps they should’ve handled it better. I thought Versus went overboard as did the NHL Network. They needed to focus on Sid without taking it too far. I think they failed in their handling of this game and that sent some viewers elsewhere. Pierre McGuire was often ridiculous in his fawning of Crosby and the Pens. I wonder how many viewers got tired of Pierre’s antics and turned the channel. It was probably more than just a few. Bottom line, while this was a special game, hockey is still a team sport and the other players shouldn’t be ignored.
Whatever the cause, this is a major letdown for NBC and the league. Versus has struggled to maintain any momentum when it comes to ratings. The Thanksgiving Showdown now becomes very important when it comes to ratings. Another disappointing number will raise plenty of eyebrows in New York and the world of sports media.