Stanley Cup Playoffs On CNBC Is Big Business For NHL

For the first time ever, CNBC will carry selected games from the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. NBC Sports Network will carry a major number of games, along with NBC and NHL Network. CNBC first went on the air on April 17, 1989 and is available in close to 100 million households.

NBC is gearing up for the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

And this year, they’ll be giving them the business.

CNBC, the original cable network dedicated to the financial markets, is being factored into the plans for NBC Sports Group to telecast all four rounds of this year’s NHL playoffs.

With still less than a week remaining in the regular season, the teams that will be playing in these games are yet to be determined. But we can tell you that games for the first two rounds of the playoffs – the conference quarterfinals scheduled to start Wednesday, April 11, and the ensuing conference semifinals – will air on CNBC, as well as NBC Sports Network (the former Versus) and NHL Network, the league-operated channel of which roughly one-sixth is owned by NBC Universal, NBC’s parent company. NBC will also carry several games over the weekends during the opening rounds.

Regional sports networks with local broadcast rights to the teams involved in this year’s playoffs may air their own coverage of their teams’ games in addition to the NBC family of networks’ coverage, but only in the first round. The NHL playoffs air exclusively over NBC and the aforementioned three cablers starting in the second round.

NBC and NBC Sports Network will carry all games in the third and fourth rounds. NBCSN will air all games in the conference final round, with a handful of games airing on NBC over weekends. The Stanley Cup final round’s first two games will air on NBC, regardless of which nights the games are scheduled, with NBCSN carrying the third and fourth games of the series. Any additional games if necessary would air on NBC.

In Canada, the latter two rounds will air in their entirety on CBC, as well as the French-language sports network RDS.

As recent as last year, NHL playoff games aired only along NBC and what was then known as Versus. As a result, many playoff games were not shown in the United States, including the entire first-round series between Anaheim and Nashville. The addition of CNBC, as well as NHL Network, provides extra outlets for games to be carried. This brings to mind the 2008 Summer Olympics, where NBC distributed selected events to sister networks including CNBC. This could possibly be the first time since then that a major sporting event aired on CNBC. Earlier this year, CNBC aired the 136th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show – if that qualifies as sports programming.

Stanley Cup Playoff games airing on CNBC might be an odd fit, but it’s a coup for the NHL: the network – which first went on the air 23 years ago this month – reaches close to 100 million households, which is more than the reaches for NBCSN and NHLN combined, and then some.

Granted, the NHL could increase CNBC’s current primetime ratings dramatically. Currently, their daily business-oriented programming gives way at 8 PM Eastern to a series of documentaries, which usually have a business angle. They also show an occasional rerun of Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.” In fact, these will mostly make up CNBC’s broadcast day this Friday, as the American markets are closed in observance of Good Friday. (For what it’s worth, over half of the programming schedule on Saturdays and Sundays consist of infomercials.)

The possibility of CNBC carrying NHL playoff games first came to light on Super Bowl Sunday, when NBC, which aired the big game, aired a promo for this year’s playoffs, which adorned the logos of four networks, including CNBC.

We officially have our answer.

As CNBC’s resident sports business expert Darren Rovell would say: game on.

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