Mar 24, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; The NHL logo is seen on the game net prior to the game between the New York Islanders and the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The bad news for the NHL and its national broadcast partners is that viewership took a small step back this season. The good news is that small step back came thanks to those networks airing nearly 50% more games than last year.

Per the Sports Business Journal, the NHL averaged 583,000 viewers for live games on Disney networks this season and 364,000 on TNT. The Disney viewership is down 2% from last year, and the TNT viewership is up 1%.

However, both of the NHL’s broadcast partners aired more games this season. Disney’s networks aired just 28 games last season, and brought 50 (nearly twice as many) exclusive broadcasts to the airwaves this season. Many of the league’s games on Disney networks earlier in the season went head to head with the NFL. They, predictably, did not do well. The games that did not take place in NFL windows averaged 629,000 viewers, up 6% from last season. The package of ABC games, which increased to 15 from nine last season, averaged a million viewers and was up 19% from the 2021-22 season.

TNT aired 61 games this year, compared to 50 last season. Unlike in 2021-22, many of this year’s games were blacked out in the local markets of the teams playing. The games that did not include local blackouts were up 9% from last season’s overall average.

It’s quite the turnaround for the league, given the handwringing at the All-Star Break about viewership being down 22%. But the league rebounded in the second half of the season, and was able to end the season in a much better place than it started.

Last season, the NHL’s national TV audience was up double digits from 2020-21. It was the league’s best season in five years. However, local viewership tanked by over 20% on RSNs in 2021-22.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.