What lockout? NHL on NBC returns with huge ratings for opening weekend

First the big numbers and then some observations:

Saturday: The 2.0 overnight on NBC (regional coverage of Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, Chicago-Los Angeles)  was the best for any regular-season game on any network, excluding Winter Classics, since a 2.3 overnight for three-game regional on ABC (1/12/02), also making it the best on NBC since the network began broadcasting the NHL again in 2006.

The 2.0 overnight was up 67% compared to last year’s 2011-12 NHL on NBC regular-season average (1.2), which includes the 2012 Winter Classic, and up 82% vs. coverage during the comparable weekend last year, which featured Chicago-Detroit (1.1; 1/14/12; overtime).

Sunday: The NHL on NBC (12:30-3:15P; Phil-Buff) earned a 1.4 overnight rating, up 27% from the same Sunday last year (12:30-3:15P; Wash-Pitt/O.T.; 1.1).

Excluding Winter Classics, it tied last year’s Hockey Day in America early game on 02/19/12 (12:30P; 3-gm reg’l) as the best overnight delivery for a Sunday broadcast regular-season NHL game since 03/26/00 on ABC (1P; 3-gm reg’l; 1.5).


So much for any backlash from the lockout. I had a feeling hockey fans, starving for their game, would forgive and forget quickly.

If anything, the high ratings show that the sport leagues can abuse us all they want with their labor disputes. At the end of the day, we’ll come crawling back because they still are the best games in town.

And one more thing: Opening last weekend was the perfect storm for the NHL. They started their season on the first Saturday since August that didn’t feature any college or pro football. As a result, the NHL had an ideal opportunity to lure viewers who wanted to watch sports of any sort.

Now let’s see if the NHL can keep it up.


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