2022 Winter Classic Ratings Continue Downward Trend, But Remains High-Water Mark For NHL Season

This year’s Blues-Wild Winter Classic averaged a 0.6 rating and 1.36 million viewers on TNT, marking the lowest rated and least-watched Winter Classic (13 total). Ratings fell 48% and viewership 30% from the previous edition two years ago, which aired during the afternoon on NBC (Predators-Stars: 1.15, 1.96M), according to Sports Media Watch.

The drop in numbers continues a downward trend for the event. With the exception of the  game in 2019 between the Blackhawks and Bruins at Norte Dame, which saw a 1.94 rating, the event has seen a steady decline in viewership since 2014.

While the outdoor game may be losing much of its initial luster from a national perspective, the game still proves to be a very popular event at the local level.

The 2020 Winter Classic, which drew more than 85,000 fans to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, continued the trend of relatively strong appeal in the local market. Attendance at the Cotton Bowl was second-largest in the history of the event, with 2014’s Winter Classic at the “Big House” in Ann Arbor, Michigan, holding the record at 104,591.

Even with the plunging ratings and viewership, the Winter Classic remains the dominant draw of the NHL season. The 2020 game outdrew every indoor NHL regular season game since the opening day of the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

According to Sports Media Watch, this year’s Winter Classic delivered the largest audience on record for a regular season NHL game on cable, topping the previous mark set by a Flyers-Panthers game on ESPN in December 2000. During its 16-year run with the NHL, NBCSN/VERSUS/OLN topped out at 1.02 million for a Flyers-Bruins outdoor game last February.

For the season, the Winter Classic ranks as the most-watched NHL game on any network, ahead of ABC’s season debut on the day after Thanksgiving (1.23M). That game still ranks as the highest rated of the season (0.7). By comparison, the game comfortably outdrew ESPN’s much-hyped return to NHL coverage on Opening Night (Penguins-Lightning: 0.56, 983K) and TNT’s NHL debut the following night (Rangers-Capitals: 0.44, 817K).

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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