This year’s NHL Winter Classic ranked as the lowest rated and least-watched Winter Classic ever (10 telecasts). Ratings and viewership have declined to all-time lows for the past four straight games.
According to Sports Media Watch, this year’s Sabres-Rangers Winter Classic earned a 1.4 rating and 2.48 million viewers on NBC. The numbers mark a slight decrease in ratings and a 3% drop in viewership from last year (Blackhawks-Blues: 1.5, 2.56M). This years numbers are down 13% and 11% respectively from 2016 (Canadiens-Bruins: 1.6, 2.8M).
In addition, this year’s numbers include streaming viewers (not typically included in past Winter Classic numbers) and are compared to previous years’ TV-only viewership.
Buffalo led all markets with a 12.2 rating, down 68% from the inaugural Winter Classic ten years ago, which also involved the Sabres (38.1). New York City turned in a 3.2 rating, down 26% from the Rangers’ previous appearance in the game six years ago (4.3).
As we noted in last years piece on Winter Classic television ratings, while national viewership and television ratings continue to drop, it’s fairly evident that there is still a great deal of local appeal 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 as a result, the national audience is losing interest.
By Jon Sorensen