Student Advisory Board Member
The NHL is over halfway through their 2015 - 2016 NHL season, and the local midseason television ratings are in. The Buffalo Sabres, who are a team that is not likely to make the playoffs this season, jumped 55% in overall viewership this season to lead the league, trumping Pittsburgh in local television ratings for the first time in seven seasons.
According to The Sports Business Journal’s annual midseason local NHL ratings review, the Sabres are currently pulling in an average rating of 6.81 per game, which is an astonishing 55% improvement from their midseason rating last season. This begs the question, why the sudden change? The Sabres are basically in the same position as they were last season at this time. With the help of young superstars like Jack Eichel, the Sabres are building for the future, and the fans are noticing. After years of poor management and meager play on the ice, fans began to get fed up. This year’s team has helped rejuvenate a fane base that historically has always been behind Buffalo’s hockey team. The ratings increase comes at a good time for the Sabres, as they’re contract with MSG expires after next season and these higher numbers will make their contract with the network more valuable come negotiation time.
The other top five teams in the rankings include the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, and Boston Bruins. All four of these teams are currently in the playoff contention, and over the past few years have been at the top of the league in local viewership. However, The Penguins and Bruins both had the largest drop-offs in viewership from last season out of the thirty NHL teams. Though still at the top, both teams each dropped 19% in terms of viewers. This is most likely attributed to lackluster performance of both teams earlier in the season.
Rounding out the bottom five teams in the league include the New York Islanders, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, New Jersey Devils, and Florida Panthers. Of these five teams with the worst viewership in the league, all five are currently in contention of a playoff spot, which leads to many questions revolving around the viewership habits and fan support in these areas. The warm weather teams, such as the Panthers, Ducks, and Coyotes, usually are towards the bottom of the rankings, as they tend to have less fan support than northern teams. The Islanders performance can most likely be attributed to their recent move from Long Island to Brooklyn, which alienated a huge portion of their fan base. As far as the Devils go, they are, for one reason or another, usually towards the bottom of the rankings every season.
Local television ratings play a huge role for NHL teams, as they pretty much determine what kind of contract offers they will receive from regional sports networks. It will be interesting to see how the ratings shape up for the rest of the season.