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Volume 22 No. 7
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Sabres see spike in NHL local ratings

For the third time in four years, the Buffalo Sabres are back on top of the NHL’s local TV ratings chart. Despite missing the playoffs for the eighth straight season, the Sabres posted an astounding 75 percent ratings increase on MSG to finish with an 8.13 average.

The Sabres’ mark easily outdistanced Penguins games on AT&T Pittsburgh, which averaged a 6.38 rating, up 10 percent from last season. The Sabres and Penguins have posted the two biggest local ratings in each of the past 10 years. The Penguins’ local TV ratings have been tops for seven of those years.

Overall, NHL local TV ratings were essentially flat this season, dropping a combined 1 percent. Sports Business Journal analyzed ratings data from 22 of the NHL’s 24 U.S.-based clubs; information for Carolina and Nashville was not available. Overall, 12 teams posted ratings increases; 10 were down.

Nationally, viewership for the NHL regular season across cable, broadcast and digital platforms bounced back 2 percent after NBC Sports last season had its lowest audience under the current media rights deal. 

The best local TV story was in Las Vegas where the Golden Knights posted a 116 percent increase on AT&T Rocky Mountain for their second season. The team’s games averaged a 4.05 rating — the third highest in the league.

Other playoff teams saw significant jumps. The Colorado Avalanche, which made the playoffs for the second straight year, had a 49 percent increase on Altitude. The New York Islanders, who had the league’s fifth-best record, saw their ratings increase 41 percent on MSG+. That ratings gain followed a 21 percent increase the previous year.

The New Jersey Devils finished with the league’s third-worst record and posted the biggest percentage decline and lowest rating. Devils games on MSG+ fell 59 percent. The team’s 0.24 rating was the league’s lowest.

The Los Angeles Kings saw a similar drop-off — both on the ice and on TV. Kings games on FS West dropped 35 percent — the league’s second-largest decline — and the team’s average 0.35 rating is the league’s fourth worst.

David Broughton contributed to this report.