The 2018 NHL Winter Classic.

Depending on what you use for comparison, ratings talk can have more “That’s bad”/”That’s good”/”That’s bad” moments than a discussion of cursed frogurt. The latest case in point comes from the 2018 NHL Winter Classic Monday between the New York Rangers and the Buffalo Sabres, which produced a 1.42 household rating and a total audience of 2.48 million viewers for NBC. Both of those stack up as the lowest for a Winter Classic (you can find a full list of Winter Classic ratings here), and they’re apparently also even behind two of the Stadium Series (outdoor, non-New Year’s Day, non-Heritage Classic, non-Centennial Classic) games.

But NBC’s tweets on this instead played up how the ratings are much better than their typical regular-season indoor broadcasts:

All of this is true; this is the lowest-rated Winter Classic on record (even considering that it’s using Total Audience metrics that include streaming), it is the fourth-straight year of declining Winter Classic viewership, but it is still much better than a typical regular-season broadcast and even some other outdoor games. (Such as last year’s Jan. 1 Centennial Classic, which featured only one American team and drew a 0.64/1.077 million viewers; the Jan. 2 Winter Classic did better with a 1.5/2.56 million.) And it’s also better than any other network’s NHL regular-season coverage did in the pre-NBC days, and better than anything on NBCSN has done.

And both of those perspectives have some merit. The Winter Classic ratings are continuing to decline (the matchup/location here may not have helped, as it’s hard to see many outside the state of New York overly interested in the Rangers and Sabres playing at the Mets’ ballpark, and there was also competition from some solid bowl games, but none of that is a total reason for this), and outdoor NHL hockey is perhaps no longer the novelty it was at first, but these ratings are still much better than NBC gets for any other regular-season coverage, and there’s reason to think their 2018 Winter Classic matchup and location (the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks at Notre Dame Stadium) may be an improvement.

It’s not necessarily “Cancel the Winter Classic!” time. These ratings aren’t terrible overall, and it’s hard to imagine NBC doing better against the Jan. 1 bowls with anything else they have. The game also has some value in terms of the shoulder programming it creates (including the Road To The Winter Classic, which was on NBCSN this year), and it has some value to the league in terms of ticket sales and merchandise. And if NBC and the NHL are getting more out of it than they’re putting in, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t keep running it, even if the ratings never return to what they once were. And these broadcasts still do very well against every other regular-season hockey broadcast.

For the moment, it’s still good by the standards of NBC hockey broadcasts. But that doesn’t negate discussion of how this is the least-watched Winter Classic in history, even if NBC would prefer to focus on how it stacks up to their other NHL programming.

[ESPN]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.

  • mike illingworth

    It’s the 2019 matchup at Notre Dame. Not 2018

  • Shawn Diiorio

    I think the novelty of outdoors games is wearing down. But they are still a commercial success for all involved. Players and fans still want to experience them. So they will continue on for a while.

    • GameFederer

      Less about that. NHL didn’t have much competition when it first started. Now the College Football playoff is the focus of New Year’s Weekend. Plus the second tier bowl games are usually around that time as well.

      • Yuri Nator

        It might be time to change the event from an NYD/NYE type tradition to a Christmas Eve/Christmas day tradition.

        • GameFederer

          Agreed. To me the outdoor games are still special. But yeah, you can’t really go up against the 4 best football teams in college football on the same day.

  • DogFartsHockey

    Just to Let Everybody Know there was another Hockey Game on the other night besides the NHL it was between Russia and USA in the World Juniors Championship in Buffalo. Russia was eliminated by our Boys by the score of 4-2 and move on but it’s not your fault It’s commissioner of the NHL Gary Betman’s fault and Comcast/NBC because of bad TV right’s and No promotion of any Hockey at all on the major networks on Free TV CBS ABC NBC FOX.Meanwhile NBA NCAA basketball and football is televised on a weekly basis and get tons of interest and more and more Kids are drawn to these sports rather than Hockey…NCAA Hockey Can’t find that at all on the weekends except maybe CBS Sports but gotta pay for that..Try and go on ESPN front page of their website NO Hockey and see any stories at all about this game..There was a Awesome outdoor game between Canada and USA on DEC.29 in a snowstorm(see picture).USA rallied from 2-goal deficit to stun Canada but there was No promotion plus I don’t even know if the game was on in the U.S. because I was watching a Canada stream.It probably was on the NHL network but you have to pay for that and that dwindles your viewers to about a few thousand..Hockey is the most exciting sport in the world and the skill level in players increases year by year and the players invent different moves on how to score goals.Meanwhile basketball skill level is the same and the moves have been the same for the last 30 years, Dunks oh boy! never seen that before, three pointers oh boy that was amazing I gotta jump outta My chair for that one, behind the back pass OMG I’m going to faint..Basketball is so boring they have to have a Circus going on during commercial breaks on the court to get people pumped up so when they see a Dunk they lose their minds..Hockey doesn’t need that stuff because the players bring that excitement and determination and to fight through fire and fury and get back up in severe pain and score a goal rather than be out with a stubbed toe for three weeks.. I could go on and on even more than I have but I’m falling asleep watching basketball highlights on the News.

  • DogFartsHockey

    Just to Let Everybody Know there was another Hockey Game on the other night besides the NHL it was between Russia and USA in the World Juniors Championship in Buffalo. Russia was eliminated by our Boys by the score of 4-2 and move on but it’s not your fault It’s commissioner of the NHL Gary Betman’s fault and Comcast/NBC because of bad TV right’s and No promotion of any Hockey at all on the major networks on Free TV CBS ABC NBC FOX.Meanwhile NBA NCAA basketball and football is televised on a weekly basis and get tons of interest and more and more Kids are drawn to these sports rather than Hockey…NCAA Hockey Can’t find that at all on the weekends except maybe CBS Sports but gotta pay for that..Try and go on ESPN front page of their website NO Hockey and see any stories at all about this game..There was a Awesome outdoor game between Canada and USA on DEC.29 in a snowstorm.USA rallied from 2-goal deficit to stun Canada but there was No promotion plus I don’t even know if the game was on in the U.S. because I was watching a Canada stream.It probably was on the NHL network but you have to pay for that and that dwindles your viewers to about a few thousand..Hockey is the most exciting sport in the world and the skill level in players increases year by year and the players invent different moves on how to score goals.Meanwhile basketball skill level is the same and the moves have been the same for the last 30 years, Dunks oh boy! never seen that before, three pointers oh boy that was amazing I gotta jump outta My chair for that one, behind the back pass OMG I’m going to faint..Basketball is so boring they have to have a Circus going on during commercial breaks on the court to get people pumped up so when they see a Dunk they lose their minds..Hockey doesn’t need that stuff because the players bring that excitement and determination and to fight through fire and fury and get back up in severe pain and score a goal rather than be out with a stubbed toe for three weeks.. I could go on and on even more than I have but I’m falling asleep watching basketball highlights on the News.

    • It’s junior hockey. Nobody outside of Canada cares about junior hockey, and even then it’s only for two weeks.

    • nbtx27

      Basketball highlights? It’s the same thing back and forth, each team shoots approx 45-50 baskets, really exciting, no wonder you are falling asleep. And I think the WWE is more legit than the NBA Playoffs.
      ESPN made a huge mistake in it’s NBA contract, and therfore does all it can to promote the NBA– they need to ratings to recover some of the contract losses from the ridiculous agreement.
      Hockey is fine, playoffs are great, Hockey overtime sudden death and WS extra innings can’t be beat.
      Hockey will never be big in the US, it even looks like scocer has become more popular ( I can’t understand that at all). Outdoor hockey – just a game, if you like hockey, you’ll watch, but really just a gimmick. It’s bad for the fans in attendance, as noted in the story, and IMO lowers the level of play- ice, lighting, shadows, even wind impact the game, and not for the better.

  • mrpresident

    The novelty has worn off. Now just mediocre mid-season hockey game(s) on bad ice, with bad fan/camera sight lines, and lot of random stuff sitting rink side distracting the TV viewer. There should be one outdoor game – the NHL All Star Game.