College Hockey Achieves Major Milestone in TV Ratings [UPDATED]

UPDATE (10:30 p.m. CST): As it turns out, the numbers shared earlier Thursday were not accurate, as a mistake was made in interpreting them. Lepore amended his tweets from earlier today as the NBC ratings were actually 96,000 viewers for Notre Dame-Michigan State and 45,000 for Dartmouth-Vermont. The 96K for ND-MSU is still a record audience for college hockey on NBC Sports Network. As a result, you can pretty much disregard this post. The numbers are improving in the lockout, which is great, but not to the degree of significance as previously thought. Carry on.

The NHL lockout might be sapping the passion right out of hockey fans across the country, but it hasn’t completely killed the sport as a whole. College hockey has had a much broader presence on TV this year and if last week is any indication, it may finally be paying off.

College hockey has an opportunity to create new fans and attract more of the NHL’s audience during the lockout. When the NHL comes back, the numbers will dwindle, but the television presence allows college hockey the chance to at least keep some of those new fans coming back.

After pretty much dismal numbers for NBC Sports Network’s first foray into college hockey last season, things are picking up during the lockout as desperate hockey fans find a new way to get their fix.

According to Steve Lepore, the premier source for hockey media analysis, shared the following:

More after the jump

These numbers are stunning and significant. Even though it’s an altered market due to the absence of the NHL, attracting a national audience of more than 130,000 viewers for college hockey is a huge accomplishment.

The Frozen Four annually attracts large audiences on ESPN even touching in the millions, but regular-season hockey has been pretty poor.

For instance, last year, a January game between Notre Dame and Michigan, two big-name programs played to a TV audience of 73,000 on NBC Sports Network. So this year’s Notre Dame-Michigan State game drew double that.

Another January game between Dartmouth and RPI drew 38,000 last year. This year, Dartmouth’s game against Vermont which was on mid-week and with very little fanfare surrounding it gained nearly 100,000 viewers.

These ratings are somewhat comparable to what NBC Sports Network was pulling in for MLS games this year, which averaged about 122,000 per game. MLS playoff games topped out at 177,000. With the growth of that professional league over the last few years, college hockey’s most recent numbers are made all the more impressive.

So in a way, this move is paying off similarly for NBC Sports Network, which isn’t even halfway through it’s college package this year.

The NHL is also likely to be encouraged by this as people are obviously looking for hockey, even if in smaller numbers than your average NHL game. This might indicate, slightly, that people will come back in fairly large numbers when the NHL returns to TV.

The college hockey ratings are encouraging, even if they’re not sustainable. This is what a lot of college coaches and those who follow college hockey closely were hoping to see during the lockout. Hockey fans are finding the college game an acceptable alternative to the NHL in fairly large numbers.

It’s up to the teams that play to help sustain the audience for as long as the lockout is gone. The product will continually have to speak for itself to keep drawing people in. NBC’s schedule doesn’t have a ton of marquee games left on its schedule, but no one would have called Dartmouth-Vermont a marquee game and it drew 130K.

The lockout is certainly bad for the game as a whole in the long-term, but there is potential for meaningful gains in the short-term for college hockey. That in itself is a very rare bright side in this whole mess.

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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2 Responses to College Hockey Achieves Major Milestone in TV Ratings [UPDATED]

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  2. zack says:

    Are the there any estimates out there for the BU BC game ratings?

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