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NHL Enters Playoffs on an 8-Year Ratings Peak, Achieves Record Attendance

NHL Playoffs 2024 odds

As the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin, the league is witnessing its best viewership numbers in eight years, with Disney and TNT Sports reporting record in-game audiences for the current media-rights agreement.

Nielsen live-plus-same-day data reveals that the 2023-24 regular season drew an average of 504,000 viewers per game across ABC, ESPN, and TNT, a rise of 8% over the previous year. This peak in viewership is the highest since the 2015-16 season when national broadcasts were handled by NBC and the now-defunct NBCSN cable channel.

ESPN contributed significantly to this surge, averaging 486,000 viewers per game, which is a 25% increase from last season’s numbers. Additionally, Bristol saw a 20% improvement in the key 18-49 adult demographic, pulling in an average of 211,000 viewers per broadcast.

Overall, the Disney networks attracted an average of 666,000 viewers per game, marking a 13% increase. Notably, ABC broadcast the most-watched NHL game of the regular season on February 18, featuring the Rangers vs. Islanders at the Stadium Series, which drew 1.57 million viewers—a 38% increase. The game, won by the Rangers in overtime, was watched by 79,690 fans at MetLife Stadium.

NHL Playoffs schedule 2024

This overtime victory also became the most-watched regular-season NHL game since Disney signed a seven-year, $2.8 billion deal with the league in 2021. In the New York market, the Rangers-Isles game attracted an average of 559,000 viewers, making it the highest-viewed regular-season NHL broadcast in the New York DMA in a decade.

Meanwhile, TNT’s Wednesday night NHL games saw a 16% increase in viewership. Collectively, ESPN and TNT delivered the highest-rated regular-season cable broadcasts in 30 years for the NHL.

In total, the NHL’s three television partners brought in an estimated $67.5 million in in-game advertising revenue this season, with major sponsors including Honda, Geico, and Verizon, along with other prominent advertisers like Progressive, AT&T, and Taco Bell. Advertising spending was up 27% from the last season.

The TV excitement mirrored the NHL’s in-person attendance, as the league set a new record. Over 22.9 million fans attended games in the 2023-24 season, with arenas operating at 97% capacity. Among the 15 teams that reached 100% capacity—or more—were Minnesota and Vegas (both at 104%), Nashville, Carolina, and Colorado (all at 101%), along with Boston, Dallas, Seattle, Tampa, Montreal, and the Rangers.

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