The National Hockey League’s (NHL) viewership on US networks ESPN and Turner Sports has fallen 22 per cent during the first half of the 2022/23 regular season, according to Sports Business Journal (SBJ).
- The average TV audience for NHL games on ESPN and Turner stands at 373,000 viewers, down from the average of 478,000 accrued at the same point last season
- Turner has seen an average audience of 359,000 viewers over 36 games, which is a 16 per cent decrease compared to the 20 games it broadcast over the same period for the 2021/22 campaign
- The Boston Bruins’ Winter Classic win over the Pittsburgh Penguins posted the league’s best regular season ratings for cable TV, averaging 1.78 million viewers, which was a 31 per cent jump on the fixture last year
- An average 402,000 viewers have tuned into ESPN’s coverage over 18 games, down 35 per cent from the 622,000 accumulated for the seven games it showed up until the same point in 2021/22
- Total minutes for the NHL on ESPN’s website and app has increased by 29 per cent year-over-year (YoY), with page views also up by 38 per cent. The network’s social media engagements covering the league has increased by 224 per cent YoY.
The drop in viewership for both cable networks can be attributed to the pair taking on twice as many games (54) compared to the same time period last season.
Another possible reason for the decline in Turner’s audiences have been the several local blackouts affecting at least seven of its broadcasts in major markets like Boston and New York. Meanwhile, ESPN has had six of its games played on Sunday, pitting the NHL against the National Football League (NFL). Last year there were no weekend games broadcast by the network at this point.
SBJ reports that ESPN’s 12 non-Sunday games averaged 491,000 viewers, which is on track to surpass last year’s average.
Given both networks are paying a reported US$625 million per season for the league’s US rights, ESPN and Turner will hope that TV audiences grow as the NHL post-season nears.