The 2013 NHL regular season was a tremendous one for NBC. In a recent release the network says that more fans watched the NHL regular season on NBC Sports Network this year than in any previous year since they started broadcasting games in 2005-06.
NBC Sports Network's newly created Wednesday Night Rivalry was a huge success. Seven of the eight most-watched games in the network's history were apart of the new feature for 2013. Leading the way was the Bruins and Rangers from January, 2013, bringing in 956,000 average viewers.
As for games on NBC itself, ratings are up 15% for regular season games, if you exclude the Winter Classic from previous figures as the game wasn't played this year due to the lockout. An average of 1.5 million viewers have tuned in to watch the 13 regular season games shown on NBC.
Overall, NBC has seen strong ratings across the board in terms of NHL coverage despite the absence of the Winter Classic and the NHL All-Star Game.
What can we take away from all of this? For starters, NHL fans quickly put the lockout behind them and returned in waves. The cries for boycotts that were heard during the lockout dried up pretty quickly once hockey resumed. No one was sweating the lockout more than NBC, especially since they recently signed a $2 billion extension to carry NHL games through 2020-21.
Looking ahead, NBC should be feeling pretty good about the previously mentioned extension to carry games for the NHL. Despite losing a large chunk of the season to the lockout, NBC posted big enough numbers that should have executives looking forward to a full slate of games in 2013-14.