Kukla's Korner Hockey

Kukla's Korner Hockey

Watching The NHL

02/01/2023 at 2:55pm EST

from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal,

NHL viewership on ESPN and TNT has dropped 22% heading into the All-Star break, according to numbers crunched by SBJ’s ratings guru Austin Karp. The main reason for such a big TV drop: ESPN and TNT have doubled the number of games that they’ve carried compared to last season, from 27 to 54. Bigger schedules of games typically hurt average viewership.

But ESPN, TNT and the league can’t be happy with audience numbers so far this season, which is the second one of the blockbuster media deal signed in 2021. All told, NHL games have averaged 373,000 viewers on ESPN and TNT so far this season. Last season, it averaged 478,000 viewers at the same point -- and that doesn’t even count an ABC game on Black Friday. If that number was included, the league average would have been 505,000 viewers last season.

TNT has averaged 359,000 viewers over 36 games, down 16% compared to the 20 games it carried during the same period last season. One reason for the drop: local blackouts impacted at least seven telecasts in big markets like Boston, Pittsburgh and N.Y. this season. Last season, it had no blackouts.

A bright spot for TNT: The Winter Classic posted the NHL’s best regular-season game yet for cable TV. Penguins-Bruins from Fenway Park on the afternoon of Jan. 2 averaged 1.78 million viewers, up 31% from 1.36 million for Blues-Wild on New Year’s Day last year in primetime. The two years of the Winter Classic on TNT still are below anything that NBC averaged for the outdoor game since its inception in 2008.

Over on ESPN, 18 games to date have averaged 402,000 viewers, down 35% from 622,000 over just seven games on the cable network at the same point last year.



from Sean Gentile of The Athletic,

A few things about the NHL that’d be necessary to remember if we weren’t constantly reminded of them: The dialogue surrounding the league is often stupid. The news is often bad. And plenty of time, the errors are unforced.

So, with that in mind, there was a bit of data making the rounds on Wednesday morning that seemed to tick all the boxes: U.S. national TV viewership, in the second season of the league’s deal with ESPN and TNT, is down 22 percent from the first, according to Sports Business Journal.

That’s a big drop regardless of the context, and it probably doesn’t bode all that well. Anything the NHL says or does in that space should be treated with a healthy level of skepticism — and all the points Sean McIndoe made Wednesday morning about the (now) 30-year Gary Bettman era applied.

That’s why so many folks on Twitter keyed on it; it matches plenty of our lived experiences, whether we’re fans, folks who cover the sport or both. “NHL uncovers a manhole, then falls into it” isn’t a trope. It’s observed reality, and it’s happened with regularity for … eighteen years? Thirty? One hundred? Did the Montreal Wanderers have a media rights deal to botch?

In this case, though — and maybe only this one — you should think twice before internalizing the ESPN/TNT deal as a failure because there are legitimate explanations for the drops. If this surprises you, you are not alone.

In ESPN’s case, they started using hockey as counter-programming for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” Nationally speaking, that’s where other broadcasts go to die; American sports fans, other than ones who root for the teams involved, have better things to do. Folks, you’ll be shocked to hear, would rather watch football or, like, eat dinner.

more ($)

Royal Grand Exalted PooBah

In ESPN’s case, they started using hockey as counter-programming for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” Nationally speaking, that’s where other broadcasts go to die;

You mean just like the last time the NHL was on ESPN? Wow who would have thought that would happen… except for most of us when they first made the stupid choice. 


Local fans hate blackouts and I’m willing to bet it turns them off from watching any games when their team is blacked out on a national carrier like these.


I just tried to watch the Leafs battle the Brewunns on some third world telecast that Lil Gary  tossed a bone to.  No sound, glitchy video.... like back in the day when we had to watch the pirate feed from Europe to catch a local game.

Way to Go Gary, ASS. (30 years on..)


Big market teams being bad also can’t help: Chicago, Detroit, Philly are all largely unwatchable this year. 


I realize that I'm in the minority but ESPN+ has made it easier for me to watch more hockey than ever, and I don't even have to pay for it since it comes free with my Verizon phone plan. Xfinity has recently started cracking down on password sharing so this month I had to pay Bally $20 to watch the Red Wings, but I've experimented with a VPN and for $4/month i'll be able to watch them through ESPN+ moving forward. The app still needs some work with the fast forward/rewind, but it seems like the quality has improved and I haven't experienced any of the early technical issues. But I get that older people that may have questionable internet service or limited computer knowledge aren't willing or able to figure out streaming or using a VPN. 


Regular season hockey is the same as regular season basketball and baseball, lack of passion. With 82 games, these games carry very little weight, and they are played as such. You are only going to get hockey fans to watch these games, and while I'll watch at a pub, i'm not tuning in to see Ducks vs. Caps or whatever. 

I also agree with Chet, having traditional powerhouses suck does not help, there's two American big market teams performing w/some excitement, NYR and BB, Colorado is a smaller market and on the West Coast.  Others like the Pens are tired, Washington too,  compound that, the other exciting or draw franchises are in Canada, two in Florida, and dare I say Buffalo? 

It all points to Gary Bettman filling a Chicago Blackhawks draft ball with helium, and they do not deserve it. Considering the wings hit rate, it'd be nice to swing one our way for a change.


The NHL is turning into the icecapades. It's a bunch of fast skaters racing up and down the ice like the old NFL run and shoot offense. Hitting is down, but stick infractions are up. Block shots are way up. The game is getting boring. 

The refs are some of the worst I have seen in almost fifty years of watching hockey. 


I've lost interest for a number of reasons, mostly because of life, but these days if I'm picking between watching a Red Wings game vs. watching Sunday or Monday Night Football, I'm choosing football 9 times out of 10.  

Ironically, the shift to ESPN+ has been excellent for me.  As someone who's out of the Wings market, I can watch nearly every game on ESPN+ while listening to Ken and Micky.  And the quality of stream is as good as anything else I would stream on Sling/hulu.  So I don't know what the difference is for me vs. how others stream, but I haven't had any issues with quality others noted.

For what it's worth, I'm streaming through a Firebox on the lowest-grade 50 mbps xfinity internet offering.  If you guys are streaming via a tv app and having issues, it could be the tv app (just a guess).  

Create an Account

In order to leave a comment, please create an account.

About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at [email protected]

Most Recent Posts

Most Recent Comments

Comment by damndogrevenge in Abel to Yzerman from the entry A2Y- Video - Coach Lalonde Today After The Skate - 1 hour ago
Comment by Paul in Abel to Yzerman from the entry A2Y- Video - Coach Lalonde Today After The Skate - 1 hour ago
Comment by Paul in Abel to Yzerman from the entry A2Y- Video - Coach Lalonde Today After The Skate - 1 hour ago
Comment by Paul in Abel to Yzerman from the entry A2Y- Video - Coach Lalonde Today After The Skate - 1 hour ago
Comment by Paul in Kukla's Korner Hockey from the entry Marty Walsh Introduced As The Director Of The NHLPA - 2 hours ago