On Saturday night, NBC showcased a rare primetime game between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, two age-old rivals in large markets. The contest drew a paltry 1.0 overnight rating, according to Sports Media Watch.
The game drew the second-lowest overnight NHL rating of the season, only beating out the Washington Capitals and Flyers earlier in February, which garnered a 0.8. The St. Louis Blues-Chicago Blackhawks also pulled in a 1.0 rating the week prior. To get a clear picture on how bad the rating is, consider that a 2013 IndyCar race on ABC drew a 1.1 rating. The number is also down 52 percent from last year, when the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins played an outdoor game. Especially considering the success the NHL has seen in the playoffs in recent years, setting various ratings highs, seeing this dip the past few weeks has been something of a surprise.
Saturday night might be becoming a barren wasteland for network television, but even still, a 1.0 rating is not encouraging for the league or NBC. It’s disconcerting for the NHL because the league rarely gets opportunities in primetime over the course of the regular season if it’s not a special event. According to Newsday, Flyers-Rangers was the first indoor regular season game televised in primetime since NBC took over NHL rights in 2006. Drawing such a paltry rating between two big market teams in the northeast will cause NBC to be very hesitant to schedule another showcase primetime game anytime soon.
UPDATE, 3/3: From an NBC Sports spokesperson:
NBC Sports coverage of New York Rangers-Philadelphia Flyers NHL Hockey (0.84 rating; 0.5/2 in 18-49, 1.4 million viewers overall from 8-11 p.m. ET) tied for #1 in primetime among the Big 4 networks in men 18-49 (with a 0.5 rating), ranked #1 outright among those nets in men 18-34 (0.3) and finished #2 in adults 18-49 (0.5).