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Volume 22 No. 34
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Sabres end Penguins’ reign atop RSN ratings

The Buffalo Sabres have ended the Pittsburgh Penguins’ run atop the NHL’s local TV ratings chart.

The Sabres, despite a sub-.500 record, averaged a league-best 6.55 rating for their games on MSG in the 2015-16 season. That’s up 60 percent from Buffalo’s 2014-15 season average, the largest increase in the league.

Though they finished with a losing record, the Sabres generated excitement among their fans.
Photo by: AP IMAGES
This is the first time the Sabres have had the league’s highest local TV rating since the 2008-09 season. It’s a gain due largely to the fan base’s excitement over last year’s No. 2 overall draft pick, Jack Eichel, and other aggressive offseason moves.

It’s also the first time in the past seven years the Penguins were not atop the local ratings leaderboard.

Pittsburgh’s 5.87 average rating on Root Sports this season was the team’s lowest since it posted a 5.82 in 2007-08. It also marks a third straight year-over-year decline for the Penguins, falling from an unprecedented 12.56 average rating in the NHL’s lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. That mark remains the highest RSN rating for a U.S.-based NHL team on record and among the best for any American sports team.

Perennial ratings stalwarts Boston and Chicago, both again in the top five leaguewide this year, saw their third consecutive ratings declines, as well.

SportsBusiness Journal analyzed ratings data from 21 of the NHL’s 23 U.S.-based clubs; information on Carolina and Nashville was not available. Ratings also were not available for the league’s seven Canadian teams.

Of the 21 clubs analyzed, 12 saw an increase in average rating compared with last year; nine saw a decline.

Joining the Sabres as the league leaders for ratings increases were Anaheim, Florida, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay. All four of those clubs made the playoffs.

The New York Islanders saw the sharpest ratings decline across the league, with its average rating on MSG falling 28 percent compared with 2014-15. Last season, the team had the highest increase across the league (79 percent), with its final season in Nassau Coliseum and a brief playoff run raising interest. Even with the team hitting the 100-point mark in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the early 1980s and a new home at the Barclays Center, ratings fell back this season.

The Florida Panthers, despite their first division title since 2011-12, had the lowest recorded average rating across the league for the second consecutive season, at 0.25. That mark, however, is up 47 percent from last year’s 0.17 average.

NHL Team RSN Ratings


Buffalo Sabres MSG 6.55 (+60%)
Pittsburgh Penguins Root Sports 5.87 (-10%)
Chicago Blackhawks CSN Chicago 3.96 (-7%)
St. Louis Blues FS Midwest 3.69 (-24%)
Boston Bruins NESN 3.45 (-23%)
Anaheim Ducks Prime Ticket 0.43 (+48%)
New York Islanders MSG Plus 0.43 (-28%)
Arizona Coyotes FS Arizona 0.38 (-25%)
New Jersey Devils MSG Plus 0.30 (+20%)
Florida Panthers FS Florida 0.25 (+47%)


Buffalo Sabres MSG +60% (6.55)
Anaheim Ducks Prime Ticket +48% (0.43)
Florida Panthers FS Florida +47% (0.25)
Los Angeles Kings FS West +26% (0.72)
Tampa Bay Lightning FS Sun +24% (1.50)
Bottom 5
Minnesota Wild FS North -21% (3.27)
Boston Bruins NESN -23% (3.45)
St. Louis Blues FS Midwest -24% (3.69)
Arizona Coyotes FS Arizona -25% (0.38)
New York Islanders MSG Plus -28% (0.43)

Note: Comparable date was unavailable for the Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators and the league's seven Canadian teams.
* Compared to 2014-15 season.
Source: Nielsen