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Volume 22 No. 39
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Penguins stay atop NHL in local TV ratings

The Pittsburgh Penguins continued their dominance of the NHL’s local TV ratings in the U.S., posting a league-high 7.89 rating on Root Sports through the latter part of March.

This marks at least the fifth consecutive season that the Penguins have posted the highest local ratings of any U.S.-based NHL team.

The Buffalo Sabres had been at the top of the league’s local ratings list at midseason, with a 7.77 on MSG. But as the team scrambled to make the playoffs, its ratings dropped to a 6.55, which placed Buffalo in second, behind the Penguins.

Boston Bruins games on NESN have brought the league’s biggest audiences this season, with an average of 112,000 homes tuning in to each game. Blackhawks games on CSN Chicago averaged 108,000 homes, good enough for second in the league.

Last year, the Penguins also had the highest number of viewers tuning in to each game (101,000 homes), despite playing in the league’s 22nd-largest market. This year, that number dropped 9 percent to 92,000 homes, which is still the fourth-biggest audience in the league.

Twelve of the 21 teams that SportsBusiness Journal reviewed saw local ratings drop this year. The Dallas Stars saw the biggest drop on FS Southwest (down 33 percent), followed by the two teams on MSG Plus — the New Jersey Devils dropped 28 percent and the New York Islanders dropped 26 percent.

Ratings for nine clubs — Carolina, Nashville and the league’s seven Canadian teams — were not available at deadline.
Nationally, NBC posted a flat 1.0 rating for its 10 telecasts, though its 1.6 million viewer average is down 6 percent from last year. NBC Sports Network saw ratings drop 5 percent to a 0.21 rating and viewership drop 6 percent to 327,000 viewers.

The news was better locally for NBC, where three of its four Comcast SportsNet RSNs with NHL rights posted double-digit ratings increases, paced by the San Jose Sharks, who saw a 74 percent jump on CSN California. The Flyers (up 44 percent on CSN Philadelphia) and the Blackhawks (up 13 percent on CSN Chicago) also saw increases.

NBC Sports Group President Jon Litner cited close playoff races, compelling story lines and increased investment in production and promotion as reasons for the increase.

“We’re seeing some of the best NHL audiences across our regional networks, including Chicago, Philadelphia and California,” Litner said.

Despite being in the playoff race the entire season, the Florida Panthers once again limped into the end of the season with the league’s lowest rating (0.21) and viewership. An average of 3,000 homes tuned in to FS Florida for each Panthers game. Phoenix Coyotes games on FS Arizona drew an average of 7,000 homes for each game.

OF HHS (000s)
Pittsburgh Penguins Root Sports 7.89 92 -9%
Buffalo Sabres MSG 6.55 42 -6%
Boston Bruins NESN 4.72 112 +56%
St. Louis Blues FS Midwest 3.51 44 +14%
Detroit Red Wings FS Detroit 3.48 64 -14%
Los Angeles Kings FS West 0.37 21 -16%
New Jersey Devils MSG Plus 0.34 25 -28%
Anaheim Ducks Prime Ticket 0.30 17 -19%
New York Islanders MSG Plus 0.25 18 -26%
Florida Panthers FS Florida 0.21 3 +40%