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Penguins again rock local-market TV ratings

Penguins again rock local-market TV ratings

By John Ourand & Christopher Botta, Staff Writers

Published

For the fifth consecutive time, the Pittsburgh Penguins led the way among NHL clubs for local-market TV ratings for the league’s regular season.

The ranking is based on an analysis of ratings information for clubs that make their Nielsen data available. The NHL’s regular season ended Sunday.

The Sabres (below) posted impressive ratings, given their record, but will finish far behind powerful division champs Pittsburgh.
Photos by: GETTY IMAGES
The Penguins, who finished in first place in the NHL’s new Metropolitan Division this season, entered last week with an insurmountable ratings lead over the Buffalo Sabres for the top local TV honors with only a handful of telecasts to go. Penguins games on Root Sports were averaging a 7.57 rating in the Pittsburgh market, more than two full ratings points ahead of the 5.56 that the Sabres were averaging on MSG Network.

The Penguins have a pair of superstars in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin who are proven drawing cards but they have continued to thrive despite their lineup being depleted by injuries and illness this season,
including a stroke suffered by top defenseman Kris Letang.

The second-place ratings finish by the Sabres, meanwhile, is a testament to the loyalty of the Buffalo fan base. The team finished last in the 30-team NHL this year, struggling from the outset of the season. Despite that poor play on the ice and some dysfunction in the front office — former hero Pat LaFontaine was named president of business operations early in the season but stepped down three months later — Sabres fans continued to tune in to MSG Network.

The Boston Bruins, like the Penguins a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, have been a good-news story in Boston. The Bruins posted the best record in the Eastern Conference, and their games on NESN had the league’s third-highest average rating, at 5.04.

One of the league’s best local stories is in Arizona, where Coyotes games saw an 85 percent ratings increase from 2011-12, the last complete, 82-game NHL season. (Teams last year played 48-game schedules after the lockout.) Under new ownership, the Coyotes have been competitive on the ice, and their 0.74 average rating was in the middle of the pack of U.S. teams monitored by SportsBusiness Journal.

NHL teams' RSN viewership

AVERAGE RATINGS

Top 5

TEAM RSN AVG. RATING (CHANGE*)
Pittsburgh Penguins Root Sports 7.57 (-4%)
Buffalo Sabres MSG 5.56 (-13%)
Boston Bruins NESN 5.04 (+7%)
Chicago Blackhawks CSN Chicago 4.33 (+40%)
St. Louis Blues FS Midwest 4.05 (+17%)

RATINGS CHANGE

Top 5

TEAM RSN CHANGE* (AVG. RATING)
Phoenix Coyotes FS Arizona +85% (0.74)
New York Islanders MSG Plus +71% (0.36)
Chicago Blackhawks CSN Chicago +40% (4.33)
Minnesota Wild FS North +35% (2.94)
New York Rangers MSG +32% (1.29)

AVERAGE AUDIENCE SIZE

Top 5

TEAM (U.S. T.V. MARKET RANK) RSN AVG. NO. OF HHs (CHANGE*)
Chicago Blackhawks (3) CSN Chicago 153,000 (+40%)
Boston Bruins (7) NESN 123,000 (+7%)
New York Rangers (1) MSG 96,000 (+32%)
Pittsburgh Penguins (23) Root Sports 89,000 (-4%)
Detroit Red Wings (11) FS Detroit 67,000 (+2%)

* Change compared to marks posted through the complete 2011-12 season, which was the most recent 82-game slate for clubs. In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, teams played 48 games each starting in January instead of the usual 82 games starting in October.
Note: Comparable data for Carolina, Nashville and the league's seven Canadian teams were not available.
Source: SportsBusiness Journal analysis of Nielsen data

On the flip side, the Philadelphia Flyers arguably have been the league’s biggest surprise in a negative sense. The playoff-bound Flyers have seen their ratings drop 39 percent since the 2011-12 season, with games on CSN Philadelphia this season averaging a 2.03 rating. The downturn could have been a result of the Flyers’ slow start to the season, though. The team started 1-7 but rebounded to clinch a playoff spot last week. Philadelphia’s ratings drop-off could be a mere, one-season blip should the Flyers become a Cup contender.

The New Jersey Devils are at the bottom of the league’s measured local ratings. Despite a fight for a playoff berth into the final week of the regular season, Devils games on MSG Plus averaged a league-low 0.18 rating this season, down 45 percent from the 2011-12.

SportsBusiness Journal analyzed ratings data from 21 of the NHL’s 23 U.S.-based clubs; information on Carolina and Nashville was not available. Ratings information also was not available for the league’s seven Canadian teams.

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