NHL viewership Connor Bedard Dec 31, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Connor Bedard (98) in action during the game between the Dallas Stars and the Chicago Blackhawks at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL’s viewership on its national media partners is looking pretty strong heading into next week’s All-Star Break.

Per the Sports Business Journal, the league’s viewership on ESPN is averaging 584,000 viewers this season, though that includes one game on ABC. That’s an increase of either 39% (excluding the ABC game) or 44% (including the ABC game) in comparison to the same point a year ago.

The news is still positive, though slightly less so, on TNT. Despite the Winter Classic, an annual regular season highlight for the league, drawing its lowest viewership ever, the league’s TNT package is averaging 423,000 viewers. That’s a 17% increase from last season at a similar period.

So far this year, the NHL has drawn its best-ever regular season audience on ESPN (Connor Bedard’s NHL debut in October, 1.431 million viewers) and its best-ever non-Winter Classic audience on TNT (Connor Bedard’s second NHL game in October, 917,000 viewers).

Will the trends continue in the second half? I’ll give it a strong “probably.” First-half viewership was quite disappointing last season, down 22% at the break, but rallied to finish down just 2% on Disney and up 1% on TNT. Even with just one ABC game, and plenty more coming after the All-Star Break, first-half viewership on the Disney networks is virtually identical to the full-season average last year (583,000). TNT’s first-half viewership this year is also significantly up compared to last year’s full-season average (364,000). For viewership to decline over the course of the full season on either network, we’d need to see a real dropoff in the second half, which seems unlikely given the spike in ABC games going forward and the strong start for TNT this season.

With the Bruins, Rangers, and Flyers, large, cold markets, thriving this season, viewership in America should be able to hold up over the next two-plus months.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Joe Lucia

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