The Buffalo Sabres may not be in playoff contention, but with a young rising star in Jack Eichel plus some players who bode well for the future, their games are being watched by local fans. Sports Business Journal did its annual midseason local NHL ratings review and found that the Sabres on MSG Buffalo are on the top of the local ratings heap averaging a 6.81 rating per game. That’s up an astonishing 55% from the previous year.
And with the huge increase, it has knocked the Pittsburgh Penguins out of the top spot which it has occupied for seven seasons. The Penguins on Root Sports this season have averaged a 5.51 rating, but that is down 19% from last year.
Rounding out the top five are the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins. The bottom five are the New York Islanders, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers.
The ratings increase comes at a good time for the Sabres as they’re contract with MSG expires after next season and higher numbers will make their contract with the regional sports network more valuable come negotiation time.
Sports Business Journal notes that of the 21 teams whose ratings data were available, seven saw ratings hikes while 13 experienced ratings decreases, but only one remain flat with last Midseason.
While Buffalo experienced the biggest ratings increase, Pittsburgh and Boston saw the largest ratings decline at 19%. But even with more teams experiencing ratings downturns from this same time last year, regional sports networks value NHL games as they provide live content and fill programming holes that would be otherwise taken by taped programming.