Winter Classic Television Ratings: The Good, The Bad and the Ugliest

Photo: Chicago Tribune

There has been quite a bit of discussion within the hockey world as of late, as to whether the outdoor game has run its course. NoVa Caps George Foussekis recently wrote about the number of outdoor games each season, and whether or not the NHL has gone too far (too many games).  The ratings are out for this years Classic, and the results are somewhat mixed, but the trends are becoming clear. 

15.5 percent of homes with a TV in the St. Louis market tuned in to NBC’s coverage. That was the second-best rated Blues regular-season game dating back to 1995, behind only the 17.5 figure drew for the contest in 1996 in which Wayne Gretzky made his home debut as a Blues. This years

In Chicago, this years Winter Classic did a 7.4. This was the lowest Chicago rating for any of the three Winter Classics in which the Blackhawks participated in. By comparison, the Capitals-Blackhawks Winter Classic game two years ago did an 11.4 in the Chicago market.

The story is not so bright outside of the teams local television markets. Nielsen says this years Winter Classic telecast was seen by an average of 2.56 million viewers. This is the lowest national rating ever for any of the nine Winter Classic games. The previous low was 2.75 million, for last year’s Montreal-Boston game.

While national television ratings continue to drop, it’s clear there is still a local appeal Factor that needs to be considered. However, the continued use of “marquee” teams is starting to lose its punch from a from a national perspective, and the national audience is losing interest.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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10 Responses to Winter Classic Television Ratings: The Good, The Bad and the Ugliest

  1. James T Paterson says:

    I’d think an outdoor game in Arizona vs Vegas (or in Vegas vs Arizona) would provide a unique spectacle of contrasting conditions (ice in the desert), would include non-traditional teams (or at least non-ChicagoBlackhawk teams) and 2 teams of similar ‘level’ thereby giving a competitive game to viewship. If held at night, the sun wouldnt be a factor (duh) but timezones would have to be accounted for in broadcasting markets. If held during the daytime, it could allow the NHL to add to appeal by claiming a Guinness World Record for hottest hockey game ever played. Yes, a goofy novelty idea but one that would draw even the moat fleeting sports fan’s eyes for at least a period of time…. Maybe 2 or 3 periods, even!

    -just a thought.

  2. Jon Sorensen says:

    No more Blackhawks for 10 years. Reduce the number of outdoor games to 1 for the next five years, to reinstitute the “uniqueness” of the game, and like James said above, try some other markets.

    • Diane Doyle says:

      I’d say we’re Blackhawked out. I’d reduce the outdoor games to the Winter Classic and one outdoor game in Canada to make things more unique. No more stadium series. And try some other markets. My own feeling back for the 2015 WC that the Caps were in would have been put the Caps vs the Isles or the Canes. Blackhawks are not a real rival of the Caps. (I would have normally suggested Rangers, except they had been so overdone in the Stadium Series. And since they had already done Caps/Penguins, I figure do someone else. Isles, a really old Caps arch-rival, seemed to be on the rise.)

  3. Scott says:

    Simply put: over-saturation.
    Combine that with poor marketing, I actually got confused over which of the games was even the real Winter Classic this year.

    I’ve been to two, and I think they’re wonderful events. Sadly, NHL is jumping the shark to exploit short-term novelty over long-term sustained interest.

    • Diane Doyle says:

      Know what you mean. While the Jan 2 game was the “real” Winter Classic this year, many probably considered the Jan 1 game as such. And that one (Jan 1) redid a recent matchup. Back when they announced Blackhawks as the opponent for the Caps (for 2015 game), my first thought was that the Blackhawks were the perfect rival — for the St Louis Blues. But when they finally did that matchup. everyone was so supersaturated with the Blackhawks.

      I’d say a good team to do for a future WC would be the Wild.

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