Thursday, April 26, 2018
News Roundup

Lightning helps ignite record Stanley Cup ratings

TAMPA — Chicago took the first game. Tampa Bay stole back the next two. But NBC won all three.

The network and the NHL are enjoying record U.S. television ratings as the Tampa Bay Lightning battle the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final.

The first contest between the Lightning and Blackhawks on June 3 was the most-watched Game 1 in 18 years that did not go into overtime. It was seen by an average of 5.5 million viewers nationwide, according to Nielsen.

Game 2 did even better. It was the most watched second game of the Stanley Cup final ever, reining in an average of 6.6 million viewers.

So how is a hockey team in the Sunshine State — in the nation's 13th largest television market — helping attract record U.S. viewers to a sport born up north and played on ice?

"I think people thought with us being a Sun Belt team our ratings would not be strong," Lightning president Steve Griggs said. "I think we've proven otherwise."

The ratings reflect the rising popularity of the NHL, particularly in a region where the game is relatively new. Hockey was invented centuries ago, but Tampa Bay got its NHL team just 23 years ago.

Media experts say this sort of bandwagon following can be expected.

"Even though Tampa Bay might not be the biggest hockey town in the country," said Northwestern University communications professor Jim Webster, "you've got a hometown team playing for a championship.

"Everybody loves a winner."

The close games could also help sustain strong audience numbers. A closely fought, back-and-forth series, Webster said, could spark a "special kind of interest in the series finale."

And more American viewers watching the series may mean more fans for the franchise.

"They may develop a taste for ice hockey down in Tampa and be more inclined to view it even when their team's not in the Stanley Cup," Webster said.

Local ratings have borne that out. Game 1 drew a 17.9 rating, the highest ever by a Lightning game on an NBC network in the Tampa Bay television market. Game 2 drew the second-highest ever rating locally at 15.1. By comparison, Chicago drew a 28 in Game 1 and 22.6 in Game 2.

There are also more U.S. viewers watching the Lightning's return to the Stanley Cup final than saw them win the championship in 2004. An average of 3.3 million watched the 2004 Stanley Cup final over seven games, according to Nielsen. But after two games, this year's series is averaging 6 million nationally so far.

After 2004, the franchise and its fortunes waned. Jeff Vinik revived both when the former Boston hedge fund manager bought the team and arena lease in 2010 for a reported $110 million. He has invested tens of millions more to fix the team's front office, roster and building.

The results have been apparent this season. Thousands have attended the team's Stanley Cup watch parties, which outgrew the Amalie Arena courtyard and have moved to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

The Blackhawks have contributed greatly to NBC's ratings success as well. The team won the Stanley Cup in 2013, have cultivated a national following and the Chicago area is the third-largest media market in the country

It's still hockey, though.

This year's Stanley Cup viewership numbers pale in comparison to the NBA Finals. Sunday's Game 2 alone delivered an average of 18.8 million viewers, making it the most watched Game 2 ever shown on ABC.

"That shows America's affinity for basketball as opposed to ice hockey," Webster said. "I think a lot of Americans don't quite understand ice hockey."

Maybe so, but more are watching it now. With the Stanley Cup final logging unprecedented viewership nationally and regionally, the NHL could see an influx of new fans.

"Non-hockey fans have really jumped on," Griggs said. The team and the NHL are banking on turning those viewers into casual fans and then diehard fans — the kind that buy season tickets and merchandise.

"It's a team that captured interest of hockey fans across the country," said Michael Mondello, a sports marketing professor at the University of South Florida's Muma College of Business.

On a recent trip north he was surprised to see several Canadians donning Tampa Bay gear.

"People are following the Tampa story."

Comments
2018 NFL draft: How Saquon Barkley could fall to the Bucs and why they shouldn’t take him

2018 NFL draft: How Saquon Barkley could fall to the Bucs and why they shouldn’t take him

There is "mounting belief" in NFL circles that the Browns are going to choose quarterback Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick tonight, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.If that happens, that increases the likelihood of running back Saquon Bark...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands beats Wall Street forecast in first quarter

Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands beats Wall Street forecast in first quarter

TAMPA — Growing sales at Outback Steakhouse have once again led parent company Bloomin’ Brands to beat Wall Street’s expectations, the latest quarterly report shows.But the Tampa-based restaurant group’s other chains are failing to keep up. Bloomin’ ...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Focus crossover and Mustang will be only Ford sedans sold in North American dealerships

Focus crossover and Mustang will be only Ford sedans sold in North American dealerships

DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday it will shed most of its North American car lineup as part of broad plan to save money and make the company more competitive in a fast-changing marketplace.The changes include getting rid of all cars in...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A look at the baseball world’s reaction to Venters comeback with Rays

A look at the baseball world’s reaction to Venters comeback with Rays

We tried to explain on Wednesday just how big a deal it was that the Rays were bringing LHP Jonny Venters back to the majors for the first time since his Braves days in 2012. And that it was not only a credit to how hard he worked and how long he per...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Domino’s lifts curtain on ‘pizza theater’ in Lutz

Domino’s lifts curtain on ‘pizza theater’ in Lutz

LUTZ — Domino’s new ‘pizza theater’ store recently opened in Lutz, just outside of the Ballantrae subdivision. The store features the open-concept pizza theater design which offers viewing of the food preparation process.There is also a comfortable l...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Cities turn to private inspectors as construction booms, and problems follow

Cities turn to private inspectors as construction booms, and problems follow

ST. PETERSBURG --- With construction booming throughout Florida, private inspectors are increasingly reviewing the work of building contractors. But that has sometimes led to missed code violations and other problems.Now the city of St. Petersburg is...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Engaged couple opens chiropractic practice for all ages on W Hillsborough Ave

Engaged couple opens chiropractic practice for all ages on W Hillsborough Ave

TAMPA — Dr. Kaylee Canalungo and Dr. Kace Groff were attending Palmer College of Chiropractic in different states when a mutual friend introduced them. After graduating and working together at a chiropractic office in New York, they are engaged to be...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Clean Juice gets 3rd spot in Hyde Park Village

Michelle Piniella forecast about another South Tampa Clean Juice location in March, and now it’s official. The healthy, fresh juice concept has secured a lease with Hyde Park Village.The opening date is to be announced this summer as it is currently ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Cuban cuisine transformed at Armature Works

Cuban cuisine transformed at Armature Works

DOWNTOWN — Felicia Lacalle says cuban cooking is in her blood as she traditionally learned from her mother growing up. Since then she has perfected her craft finding ways to recreate classic dishes with a modern twist and now she aims to change the C...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top 5 at noon: The Corcoran-Trump Twitter connection; Florida near top of hit-and-run fatalities; and more

Top 5 at noon: The Corcoran-Trump Twitter connection; Florida near top of hit-and-run fatalities; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com:RICHARD CORCORAN IS TRYING TO GET DONALD TRUMP’S ATTENTION ON TWITTERMuch of House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s April Twitter activity seems aimed at one person: President Donald Trump. The Rep...
Updated: 1 hour ago