The 2012-13 NHL season was not to be trusted as far as its determination of NHL ratings potential on NBC Sports Network. The nature of the short season, with there being fewer games in a shorter amount of time, gave everyone a bit of an advantage once we all realized that people would come back in spades. Fewer games just means there's going to be fewer bummer games.
Yet another NHL lockout also gave us a start after the end of most of the NFL season, which meant less distraction for the league once things got into a groove. I was very cautious about showing much optimism regarding NBCSN's future prospects based on this outlier of a season. So far, however, the network has done decent business to start 2013-14.
NBCSN is averaging 389,000 viewers through 14 NHL telecasts so far this season. That's growth of 17 percent from an average of 324,000 through nine October telecasts on VERSUS in October of 2011, the last time the NHL played games in October. That also doesn't include two weekend afternoon games played in Europe that year, which would likely make the growth look even larger.
What's helped? Well, Wednesday Night Rivalry is certainly a factor. Even when stunted because St. Louis or Boston were playing postseason baseball, it still drives Wednesday audiences way higher than they were in years past. NBCSN had four audiences of 500,000 viewers or more in October of 2013. They had just one on VERSUS in October of 2011. Better matchups in general have helped.
Take a look, in order of most viewers to least, how both months compare. Overall, it's a pretty good start for NBCSN, With Pittsburgh playing three straight weeks on Wednesday nights against big market rivals, a couple of other decent games, and the post-Thanksgiving game on NBC at the end of the month, the NHL figures to be on its way to another year of ratings growth. Possibly sustainable growth this time.
2013-14 NHL on NBCSN in October
1. Washington vs. Chicago, 10/1 – 935,000
2. Boston vs. Pittsburgh, 10/30 – 591,000
3. Buffalo vs. Detroit, 10/2 – 583,000
4. Chicago vs. St. Louis, 10/9 – 523,000
5. NY Rangers vs. Washington, 10/16 – 461,000
6. Boston vs. Buffalo, 10/23 – 374,000
7. Minnesota vs. Buffalo, 10/14 – 365,000
8. Tampa Bay vs. Buffalo, 10/8 – 323,000
9. Los Angeles vs. Minnesota, 10/3 – 322,000
10. Nashville vs. Minnesota, 10/22 – 247,000
11. Colorado vs. Pittsburgh*, 10/21 – 223,000
12. San Jose vs. St. Louis, 10/15 – 199,000
13. Tampa Bay vs. New Jersey, 10/29 – 168,000
14. Montreal vs. NY Rangers, 10/28 – 134,000
2011-12 NHL on VERSUS October (not including European broadcasts)
1. Boston vs. Philadelphia, 10/6 – 874,000
2. Pittsburgh vs. Vancouver, 10/6 – 342,000
3. Tampa Bay vs. Buffalo, 10/25 – 338,000
4. Boston vs. Carolina, 10/12 – 312,000
5. Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota, 10/18 – 286,000
6. Colorado vs. Toronto, 10/17 – 218,000
7. Florida vs. Pittsburgh, 10/11 – 216,000
8. San Jose vs. NY Rangers, 10/31 – 169,000
9. Tampa Bay vs. Washington, 10/10 – 162,000