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Posted at 4:53 PM ET, 02/ 7/2011

Caps, Wizards TV ratings go in opposite directions

By Dan Steinberg

Sports Business Journal is out with its annual look at the mid-season NBA and NHL ratings for U.S. regional sports networks, and the news is quite different for Washington's two main winter sports teams.

The Wizards ranked fifth from the bottom of the NBA's U.S. franchises, with a 1.28 average rating on Comcast SportsNet, the publication reported. From a ratings standpoint, that's only ahead of Atlanta, Charlotte, the Clippers and the Nets, although Washington does better in the total audience size category due to the size of the D.C. market. (The Wizards' average household audience is about 31,000.)

The Caps, meantime, had the 8th-best local TV ratings (1.62) and the 9th-biggest total audience of U.S. NHL teams, with an average of 39,000 households in the D.C. market. That's up 29 percent over a year ago, which makes Washington the third-fastest growing U.S. market, behind only St. Louis and Boston.

Personally, I care less about the national rankings, since what the Wizards do doesn't have much to do with the price of buttered corn in Phoenix, and a lot more about the raw numbers. According to Sports Business Journal's numbers, the Caps are about 25 percent ahead of the Wizards, in what's long been thought of as a basketball town. Yes, the hockey team is winning at a much more frequent pace, but the difference is still striking. Last year at this time, I expressed surprise that the numbers were so similar for the two teams, but since then the Caps have gone up and the Wizards have gone down.

In the NHL, the biggest local ratings came in Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Detroit, while the biggest local audience came in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Detroit. The NBA's biggest local ratings came in San Antonio, Utah and Miami, while its biggest local audiences were watching the Lakers, Bulls, Celtics and Knicks.

By Dan Steinberg  | February 7, 2011; 4:53 PM ET
Categories:  Caps, Wizards  
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So perhaps TV ratings are a lagging indicator in demonstrating what everyone has known for a couple years--that the Caps are clearly the number two most popular team in town. If the ratings are up that much in a season when they're losing much more, playing a less exciting brand of hockey and their best player hasn't been performing up to his previous standards most nights--the Caps must be developing a pretty solid fan base.

Posted by: TheFingerman | February 7, 2011 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Not to take anything away from Steve Buckhantz, who has been through a lot, but the Caps have two of the best in the business - Joe B & Locker, and Alan May, who used to be simply uncomfortable to watch on camera, has really come into his own.
I am hearing rumors that Joe B is being taken out of his Versus gig thanks to the NBC/Comcast merger, and has some other "big announcement" coming up. Anybody know what's going on there??? If CSN takes him off locally, I'll just listen to games on the radio or the away broadcast on XM on principle.

Posted by: vtavgjoe | February 7, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Joe B isn't going anywhere. It was reported on Sunday that signed a three-year extension with CSN.

Posted by: CapsNut | February 8, 2011 9:04 AM | Report abuse

The Wizards are unwatchable. And I say that as a lifelong, diehard fan who prefers basketball over every other sport. It makes me sad. Where are the Gilberts of yesteryear?

Posted by: bryc3 | February 8, 2011 9:12 AM | Report abuse


You can get buttered corn in Phoenix?


Posted by: MikeL-Caps911 | February 8, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

And yet any time there is a Capitals/ Wizards game conflict, the Wizards always get the HD channel. What gives and who do I complain to?

Posted by: copperhead2 | February 8, 2011 9:21 AM | Report abuse

agree with Copperhead -- It's obviously in CSNs best interest to swap the Wiz to the SD channel and put the Caps in HD, given their better ratings and not being a horrible team =)

Posted by: BoomerTSFX | February 8, 2011 9:34 AM | Report abuse

copperhead and boomer are right on the money! Caps games should always be on CSN HD especially now since the ratings are better and it is much easier to follow the action in HD than in SD. Hockey is barely watchable now without HD broadcast coverage. That, in part, has plagued the NHL television ratings for years. Remember the glowing puck?

I think the thing to do is start emailing CSN and point to the ratings and hockey needing HD more than basketball.

Posted by: mrsmitty | February 8, 2011 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Shoot, I've been a Bullets/Wiz fan for 35+ years and, given the option, I'd prefer to watch Charlotte, Atlanta or the Clippers.

Posted by: mike8 | February 8, 2011 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Bullets left this area in '98

Who are the Wizards? (what an AWFUL name)

Posted by: Nats1924 | February 8, 2011 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Copperhead and Boomer--

That's just not true. They divide the games equally when there's a conflict--half of the time the Caps get the main channel and half the time the Wizards get the main channel. It's the fairest way to do it, because as a Caps fan I wouldn't want the Caps to always get the auxiliary channel if they were bad and the Wizards were good.

Having said that, I know that in MoCo Comcast at least (and I suspect on Comcast systems elsewhere), you can get Comcast SportNet Plus in HD--it's somewhere in the 800s, but it's there.

Posted by: TheFingerman | February 8, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I remember years ago possibly during Ovie's first season, when Ted Leonsis was asked if he would ever consider moving the team. His reply was that he intended to put a team together that could contend for the long term and that when that was accomplished (as I think it is now) he expected on ice success would lead to success with the fans. He concluded that if he was wrong, he might consider a move but that he felt strongly that "this town loves a winner." I don't think that question's coming up a lot in his interviews these days.

Posted by: TheCapitalist1 | February 8, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

If Comcast owns Versus and now NBC, why wouldn't they want their best talent (Joe B.) across their brands? In addition to be impeccably dressed, the man is always, always well-prepared for a game. I don't get that feeling from the NBC team. They seem to gather their intel from google.

Posted by: ljo211 | February 8, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Both teams still draw more than the Natinals.

That's all that matters.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | February 8, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

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