Yesterday's Winter Classic garned an increase in ratings over last year's game featuring Buffalo and Pittsburgh and the best ratings for an NHL regular season game since 1996. Nielsen Media Research reported that the game had an overnight rating of 2.9 while last year's Winter Classic had a 2.6 rating.
Overnight ratings measure the number of viewers in the biggest U.S. cities. Final ratings include numbers from smaller television markets.
Early reports say that the local ratings were a 10.5 in Detroit and 11.8 in Chicago. I can't say I'm surprised that the rating was higher in Chicago as Michigan State bowl game was at the exact time as the Winter Classic.
There was also some positive news before the game saying that the NHL has seen a strong improvement in sponsorship sales.
Added Keith Wachtel, NHL senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing: “We’ve gained some momentum and established the Winter Classic as an important date for our league and sponsors.”
Sponsorship sales for the 2009 Winter Classic are up 40 percent from the 2008 game.
I will be sure to update this post once the final rating numbers have been released.
Updated January 3rd: The Winter Classic drew a 6 share (1 - 4:15 p.m.). The 2.9 overnight rating was the best "overnight NHL regular season rating in nearly 13 years (Feb 3, 1996 on Fox, six-game regional, 3.0/7)."
"Year one was an extraordinary experience. Year two was the establishment of what promises to be a great tradition," said NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer.
The biggest ratings surprise is that four of the top ten metered markets in terms of ratings for the game came from cities that do not have NHL teams. In fact, Florida had slots nine and ten with West Palm Beach (3.3/6) and Orlando (3.2/5) respectively. I'm surprised that New York City and Minneapolis weren't in the top ten. The NHL probably has to be a bit disappointed that the top market in the U.S. didn't garner that many viewers. I bet we see the NHL turn to the NY Rangers for the next Winter Classic to reach the golden market.