HomeBroadcastNHL Winter Classic faces viewership slump in 2024 amidst college football clash

NHL Winter Classic faces viewership slump in 2024 amidst college football clash

NHL Winter Classic faces viewership slump in 2024 amidst college football clash

The 2024 edition of the National Hockey League (NHL) Winter Classic, an annual highlight on the league’s calendar featuring outdoor stadium games, has encountered a significant viewership setback, marking its least-watched match in history.

Broadcasted on the Warner Bros. Discovery-owned sports network TNT and truTV, the New Year’s Day game between Vegas Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken only managed to attract a combined average of 1.1 million viewers, a new low for the series.

This year’s average falls notably below the previous record low of 1.36 million viewers in 2022, representing the fourth consecutive edition with fewer than 2 million viewers. The 2023 edition, with 1.78 million viewers, was the only other recent exception to this declining trend. The drop in viewership is partly attributed to a scheduling clash with college American football’s playoff semi-finals, particularly the Rose Bowl college football game on New Year’s Day.

The Rose Bowl, airing on Disney-owned ESPN and averaging an impressive 27.2 million viewers, emerged as the most-watched non-NFL sporting event in the US since the 2018 Winter Olympic opening ceremony. This scheduling conflict poses a considerable challenge to the NHL for future Winter Classic viewership, as college football quarter-final games, including a Rose Bowl matchup, are slated for the same date starting in 2025.

Despite its recent decline, the Winter Classic, traditionally held on or around New Year’s Day, has been a key fixture in the NHL calendar. Historically, it was the most-watched regular-season NHL game of the year, with its peak viewership reaching 4.5 million in 2011. However, this year marks the first time since its inception in 2008 that the Winter Classic did not claim the title of the league’s most-watched regular-season game. The opening night clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins took that honour with 1.43 million viewers.

While the Winter Classic faces challenges, NHL broadcasts on TNT have seen a 17 percent increase in viewership year-on-year, accompanied by a remarkable 24 percent year-on-year surge in the target male 18-34 demographic.

TNT, along with Disney’s ESPN and ABC, secured NHL broadcasting rights in a seven-year deal starting in 2021, replacing long-time partner NBC. The shift to TNT, while contributing to the declining Winter Classic viewership, has demonstrated positive trends in overall NHL viewership, indicating potential growth in the league’s fan base.

As the NHL navigates new broadcasting partnerships and competition from other major sporting events, it remains to be seen how the league will adapt its strategies to regain the Winter Classic’s historical viewership heights in subsequent editions.

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