Networks get a playoff payoff

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:26 AM ET

Last night, undoubtedly, was another good one for CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.

Tonight, it'll be TSN's turn to shine again.

So it goes with the ratings roller-coaster that has been the Stanley Cup playoffs. With the three Canadian teams being the clear barometer for the networks.

"If we're up against a popular Canadian team, clearly that has an impact on our audience," said TSN president Phil King, whose network is doing well despite its lack of Canadian content.

Take a look at what has gone on the past few nights. On Tuesday, CBC had its best ratings of the post-season -- an average of 1.75 million viewers for the Senators-Penguins game, then 1.375 million for Flames-Red Wings (the Canucks-Stars matchup, an 8 p.m. ET, start was seen in B.C. and straddled the other games).

TSN, meanwhile, barely cracked 200,000 with its Anaheim-Minnesota coverage.

But when the CBC opposition has been New Jersey-Tampa Bay series, TSN has, at times, crept to within 150,000 in audience level. It's allowed the network to have a strong night of its own.

"Having all three Canadian series on the same night (means) we only have to go up against it once," King said.

It also means TSN's playoff average fluctuates nightly. After strong numbers Wednesday (554,000 for Sabres-Islanders; 557,000 for Predators-Sharks), it sits at 411,000. That's up 26% over last season.

"How can we not be happy with a nice increase in our average rating?" King said.

And how can CBC not be happy with the possibility that two of its biggest cards -- the Senators and Canucks -- are likely to be there for them in the next round?

ONLINE'S JUST FINE: CBC has been pleased with its first foray into online coverage of the NHL playoffs. Every game is being streamed live at cbcsports.ca. Pre-game and post-game coverage is also available. "Sometimes, you don't hear things from viewers unless they're really upset," Joel Darling, HNIC's executive producer, said. "But for the most part, the feedback has been good. It never hurts to have more coverage of something people are passionate about."

AROUND THE DIAL: TSN has coverage of the Toronto Raptors' NBA playoff opener against the New Jersey Nets tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. ... CBC has hired veteran BBC voice Nigel Reed, along with former national teamer Craig Forrest and Mitch Peacock for its Toronto FC and under-20 World Cup soccer coverage.


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