NHL Season Opener Sets ESPN Viewership Records
The commencement of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) 2023-24 season made an electrifying impact on ESPN, breaking viewership records. The season kicked off on October 11 with a triple-header of games, captivating an average of 909,000 total viewers and peaking at 1.65 million viewers.
This achievement signifies a remarkable 40 percent surge compared to the opening night of the 2022-23 season, even with an additional game factored into the equation. The second game of the evening, where the Chicago Blackhawks defeated Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2, averaged 1.43 million viewers, marking a 64 percent increase from the previous season’s opening-day primetime game and establishing a new record for a regular-season ice hockey game on ESPN.
The night featured two primetime games, with the second, pitting the Vegas Golden Knights outlasting Seattle Kraken 4-1, registering a 71 percent boost in viewership compared to its equivalent fixture from the previous opening day.
These records build on a series of outstanding sports performances on ESPN throughout 2023. In September, the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix achieved a historic US viewership figure for the network, with a combined average audience of 1.2 million viewers, marking the race’s highest viewership in the US.
This record-breaking momentum comes at a time when the NHL is actively working to enhance its global presence. NHL Chief Content Officer Stever Mayer disclosed the league’s interest in Mexico City as a potential site for international NHL games, as part of their strategy to expand the league. There has also been interest from NHL teams eager to explore the market for hosting games in Mexico.
“Our international department and our events department get so many inquiries from all over the world, and we’ve heard from so many people that have done major events in big cities, and they love the fact that hockey can be viable in their countries,” Mayer stated.
The 2023-24 season will see Sweden hosting four regular-season games, reflecting the NHL’s commitment to global engagement.
The league has been instrumental in bringing hockey to international audiences, having organised 32 pre-season games and 28 regular-season fixtures in Europe since 2007. Meanwhile, in the NHL’s Global Series saw the historic pre-season visit of Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings to Melbourne last month.
The NHL Global Series in Melbourne: Fan Engagement Strategies That Worked.
— Ministry of Sport (@ministryofsport) October 4, 2023