The great series that nobody is watching


Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins are currently playing to the best of their abilities in a matchup hockey buffs have dreamed about. Problem is, not many people are aware of it and if they are, they’ll have trouble finding the games as they are on the Versus network.

It’s a once-in-a-decade duel — the kind of rare treat that somehow exceeds the hype. So tonight, tune into channel 603, and catch the last game of an instant classic.

That’s right: channel 603, square in television’s Yukon Territory. Since the hockey playoffs are on Versus, formerly known as the Outdoor Life Network, viewers in many markets will have to search the hinterland of channel listings in order to watch the games. Versus is channel 603 on DirectTV, and its placement isn’t pretty on cable, either. On Time Warner Cable’s Los Angeles system, it’s channel 267; in New York, Cablevision puts Versus on channel 146; and in Dallas, Versus gets prime position on channel 254. Of the nation’s 115 million television households, some 40 million do not even get Versus.

The series is drawing a smaller audience than last year’s College Baseball World Series, on ESPN, when it averaged 1.4 million viewers. On May 8, only 647,000 viewers tuned into Game 4 of Penguins-Capitals, making it the 81st highest-rated program on cable that night. The Crosby-Ovechkin dream duel clocked in behind both a Batman episode on the Cartoon Network (1.5 million viewers), and a “Reba” rerun on Lifetime (930,000). The Los Angeles Lakers-Houston Rockets NBA playoff game on ESPN, with nearly 6 million viewers, came in first. The May 9 NASCAR Sprint Cup race, a regular season affair, drew 7.5 times more viewers than Game 5 — an overtime thriller — shown the same night on Versus.

I remember when I was completely out of the hockey loop last year. I knew that the playoffs were on and but I didn’t have much interest in watching. Then one day I literally got lost in the hundreds of channels that we received and somehow landed on this station called Versus. Turns out, the Sharks vs. Stars series was on and I stuck around. I had never heard of the network. Even in all the sports reading I did and in watching other sports, I never saw an advertisement for Versus.

I know what channel the network is on now, of course. It’s just a shame really since these playoffs have actually been fairly exciting. I’m not sure how much of a financial success the NHL was this year but I’m sure it didn’t do horrible. Regardless, here’s hoping Versus puts more money into their public relations department as Crosby and Ovechkin are reasons enough to watch.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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