Hockey fans have been enjoying as many as six games a day since the NHL rebooted the 2019-2020 season last week. The wall-to-wall action has been a godsend for fans who have been without hockey since March 11th. The barrage of games is also a much-needed boost for a league that is struggling financially and has also provided an excellent opportunity to promote the sport to all of the sports world. But how has the game been received?
According to Sports Media Watch, Saturday’s Canadiens-Penguins NHL Stanley Cup Qualifier Game 1 averaged a 1.0 rating and 1.54 million viewers on NBC (1.57M including streaming), marking the highest rated and most-watched NHL game of the season, excluding the Winter Classic (Predators-Stars: 1.15, 1.96M).
Compared to NBC’s first primetime game of last year’s playoffs — Maple Leafs-Bruins Game 2 in the first round — ratings were flat and viewership fell 9% (from 1.71M). Montreal’s overtime win peaked with 2.06 million viewers from 11-11:15 PM ET.
Earlier in the day, Blackhawks-Oilers Game 1 averaged a 0.72 and 1.09 million (1.12M including streaming).
Chicago’s win, which peaked with 1.43 million from 5:45-6 PM, declined 4% and 8% respectively from NBC’s first afternoon game in last year’s playoffs (Hurricanes-Capitals Game 2: 0.75, 1.19M). Keep in mind it faced overlapping playoff games on NBCSN.
NBC averaged a 0.69 and 1.07 million for NHL games prior to the league’s March hiatus. Its final game before the layoff — Flyers-Rangers on March 1 — averaged a 0.7 and 1.05 million.
Sunday’s Blues-Avalanche NHL round robin averaged a 0.40 rating and 655,000 on NBCSN (684K including streaming), marking the largest NHL audience on cable since Opening Night (Capitals-Blues: 724K).
Elsewhere in the NHL’s resumption of play, NBCSN averaged 596,000 viewers for Monday’s Canadiens-Penguins Game 2 and 502,000 for Rangers-Hurricanes Game 1 on Saturday. None of the other qualifying games on cable have cracked the 500,000 mark.
Over on the NBC broadcast network, Sunday’s Flyers-Bruins round robin averaged a 0.8 and 1.42 million — the third-largest audience of the NHL season behind the Winter Classic and the previous day’s Canadiens-Penguins opener (0.9, 1.50M).
By Jon Sorensen