NEW YORK -- The switch to ABC from FOX already is paying off for the NHL.
Sunday's telecast of the 50th All-Star game -- ABC's first NHL telecast since acquiring broadcast rights -- showed a marked increase in viewers compared to last year's game on FOX, according to Nielsen television ratings data released Thursday.
The World team's 9-4 victory over North America, which aired from Toronto's Air Canada Centre from 2:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m., recorded a 2.7 national rating with a 6 share -- a 23 percent jump in U.S. households over last year's game.
"We're very happy," said Glenn Adamo, the NHL's group vice president of broadcasting. "We think it's a positive sign for us. We look at this with a smile on our faces and we hope to keep the momentum going."
The rating is the percentage of TV households tuned to a telecast and each point represents 1,008,000 homes. The share is the percentage tuned in among those televisions on at the time.
The 1999 All-Star game at Tampa Bay had a 2.2 national rating with a 5 share, down from 2.7 in 1998.
Sunday's game was shown opposite an NBA game on NBC and prior to ABC's telecast of the NFL Pro Bowl. Last year's game did not have competition from pro basketball because of the lockout that delayed the start of the NBA season.
ABC, which added more than a half-million viewers from last year, had nearly four million watching nationwide. More significantly, viewership largely increased in non-traditional hockey markets.
Increases were shown in Seattle (133 percent), Atlanta (106), Indianapolis (100), Orlando (82), Kansas City (69), Charlotte and Miami (62), San Diego (57), Nashville and Jacksonville (18), and Cincinnati (10).
"What we're very happy about, are those markets where we haven't seen traditionally good ratings in, we saw very big gains," Adamo said.
Of those cities, only Atlanta, Nashville and Miami have NHL teams.
In the all important demographics, ABC also scored. Ratings were up in all key age ranges, the largest jump being with 18-24 year-old men (118 percent), women from 18-24 (140) and teen-agers (57).
Disney, the owner of ABC and ESPN, acquired the rights to broadcast the NHL on the two networks for $600 million over five seasons. FOX held the contract for five previous seasons.
The breakdown was $350 million for ESPN's cable rights and $250 million for over-the-air telecasts on ABC.
Adamo said that advertising on ABC during last month's Super Bowl and on hit shows such as "NYPD Blue," and "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," attracted viewers to the game.
"The promotional platform that ABC and ESPN brought to this, we think helped this," Adamo said of the increased viewership.
ABC also showed Sunday's game in high-definition television on its 23 affiliates already using a digital signal. It was the first hockey telecast shown nationally in high-definition.
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