NBC ratings crush USA vs. Canada on MSNBC

NBC was rewarded for putting ice dancing on in prime time Sunday night instead of hockey. (Mark Baker/AP)

The early television ratings from Sunday night are in.

For all those – including me – who lambasted NBC’s decision of putting Sunday night’s thrilling United States victory over Canada on sister station MSNBC, we can eat humble pie. Turns out NBC does actually know what it's doing, after all.

Nationally, an average of 23.3 million viewers tuned in each half-hour from 7:30 pm EST until 10 o’clock pm EST to watch ice dancing and other Olympic highlights on NBC.

Almost 15 million less people (an average of 8.22 million) tuned into MSNBC in the U.S. during that same time period to watch the United States beat Canada to earn the No. 1 seed and cap off their preliminary round schedule.

That sounds like a win-win for NBC.

Let's put those numbers in perspective:

  • Sunday night was the most watched hockey game in the U.S. since May 10, 1973 (Chicago vs. Montral, Game 6). Sunday night’s game had more viewers than Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final between Detroit and Pittsburgh.
  • It is the second most-watched program in MSNBC history, falling just 8,000 average viewers short of the 2008 Presidential Election coverage.
  • MSNBC is available in 78 million households, NBC is available in 112 million households.

Would it have been nice to see the game on NBC? Certainly.

It's tough to say whether the game would've garnered higher ratings on NBC. It seemed like many people just tuned into NBC for Olympic coverage and not to watch a specific event or game.

But here’s why I enjoyed it on MSNBC: they showed the game in its entirety, unlike some of the other games in the preliminary round where they were forced to break away from coverage, and they showed it with limited interruptions. It was annoying to watch some of the other prelim games with seconds of play missing so they could fit in a full commercial between the quick Olympic stoppages.

Plus, I’m biased. I watched the game in HD… MSNBC isn’t available in HD in all areas. Some say that HD has a bigger impact on hockey than it does any other sport.

On MSNBC, the game was also broadcast live Coast-to-Coast instead of on a tape-delay out West.

Now, with much of the country buzzing, NBC will be in a good spot to move the playoff and medal round games over to the big network.

Interestingly, Sunday’s game between the U.S. and Canada – which is still being talked about on Twitter as “Do you believe in Miller-acles?” because of goaltender Ryan Miller’s performances – did beat NBC in some markets.

The Buffalo News reported early today that MSNBC was viewed in 14.6 percent of Buffalo-area households compared to 13.4 percent of the other coverage on NBC.

Buffalo is a true hockey town... but it’d be interesting to see which markets with hockey had MSNBC out-draw big brother NBC during the game. How much of Sunday night’s national ratings come from parts of the country where hockey isn’t even a blip on the radar?

Sunday's game was the most watched program in Canadian television history. An average of 10.6 million - peaking at 13 million people - watched on CTV. A reported 12 million people watched the U.S. beat Canada back on Jan. 6 in the World Junior (Under-20) Championships in Canada.

The 8.22 million viewers in the U.S. would’ve made up more than 24-percent of Canada’s total population.

Follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter for the latest updates at http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.