Playoff fever: Catch it!

Bulls’ and Blackhawks’ victories not just limited to the arena

Forget Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, the top prime time star as far as Chicago is concerned is Derrick Rose.

Comcast SportsNet dominated the ratings with an iron first Thursday night with a Quarterfinal doubleheader featuring both the Chicago Bulls and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, setting records along the way (and both won their games, too!)

From 6 pm to midnight, Comcast SportsNet dominated the Chicago market with an 11.8 household rating and a 7.6 rating in the adult 25-54 demo, topping network prime-time stalwarts such as American Idol, The Office, 30 Rock, Bones, and The Paul Reiser Show (which NBC canceled Friday afternoon after two low-rated ratings.) CBS and ABC were in repeats for the entire evening.

– Game 3 of the Chicago Bulls-Indiana Pacers Quarterfinal series drew a 13.7 household rating – a highest number ever for a Bulls game – or in fact any game – Bulls, Blackhawks, White Sox, Cubs included – in the seven-year history of the channel. The telecast peaked at 21.5 household rating at 8:15 p.m. and topped all entertainment prime-time programming in the market, including Office and Bones. The Bulls won the game 88-84, which was close throughout.

Also helping the ratings for Comcast SportsNet is the Bulls-Pacers game was not simulcast on national television partners TNT or ESPN, but on NBA TV instead, a channel with limited reach and available only to those who have expanded digital cable packages.

Compared to the first-round playoff series last year against the LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls-Pacers series on CSN so far are up a whopping 204% in households and up 261% in the 25-54 demo.

– Game 6 of the Chicago Blackhawks-Vancouver Canucks Quarterfinal series also set a record for the highest-rated Blackhawks game in the history of the channel with a 10.6 household rating from 9-11:30 p.m, and peaked at a 12.3 household rating at 10:30 p.m. At 10:00 p.m., CSN Chicago beat all three network O&O’s local newscasts with an 11.6 household rating.

CSN Chicago carried the game locally, and their feed was distributed nationally by Versus (both CSN Chicago and Versus are part of the newly formed NBC Sports Group, which came together when Comcast purchased 51 percent of NBCUniversal from General Electric.) CBC carried the game north of the border in Canada. The Blackhawks won the game 5-0 and stay alive in the series, which they are now down 3-2 to the Canucks.

Despite the Blackhawks struggles in the first three games in their series against the Canucks, the series is up 15% in households and up 21% in the 25-54 demo vs. the Blackhawks’ first-round series against the Nashville Predators.

Meanwhile, the White Sox-Tampa Bay Rays game appeared on a CSN spillover channel (usually CLTV on some cable systems) and drew a 1.03 household rating. The White Sox snapped a seven-game losing streak with a victory of the Rays Thursday night.

If you add it all up, Comcast SportsNet’s games Thursday night drew a cume audience of 25.3 HH and more than 860,000 households in the Chicago market.

And that’s not all. In New York, playoff appearances by the Knicks and Rangers are drawing viewers to Cablevision’s MSG Network, with the latter team averaging a 2.9 HH rating for its playoff series against the Washington Capitals, up 7 percent from two years ago – with an impressive 32 percent gain in the 25-54 demo.

In Boston, a Bruins playoff hockey game on NESN recently drew a 10.7 household rating in prime-time.

And you can bet fans in Los Angeles are tuning in to see defending NBA Champion Lakers on Fox Sports West and KCAL-TV as they take on the New Orleans Hornets in the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, ratings for the NBA Playoffs on both TNT and ESPN have seen increases from year-ago time periods.

The success of playoff fare on cable have come at a time when audiences for the five major networks’ prime-time fare continues to dwindle. In the last few months, the broadcast networks have put up less-than-stellar numbers as cable programming – sports and non-sports – have grown by leaps and bounds. And the major networks airing lousy fare such as Reiser, Chaos, Traffic Light, Breaking In, and Off The Map isn’t helping matters much, either.