NBC Calls ’11 Winter Classic Highest Rated Regular Season Game in 36 Years

NEW YORK – Jan. 2, 2011 – The 2011 NHL Winter Classic, broadcast on New Year’s Day by NBC Sports in primetime due to a weather delay, was the most-watched Winter Classic ever, up 22 percent vs. last year’s game and the most-watched NHL regular-season game in 36 years, according to fast national data provided by Nielsen Media Research. In four years the NHL Winter Classic, which Newsday called “a holiday tradition” and the New York Times said “has stolen New Year’s Day,” has averaged 4.1 million viewers on NBC. Saturday’s game was seen by 4.5 million viewers, up 22 percent vs. last year (3.7 million), and earned a 2.3 national rating and 4 share (8-11 p.m. ET), up 10 percent vs. last year (2.1/4, 1-4 p.m. ET).


Despite changing the start time from 1 p.m. ET to 8 p.m. ET due to weather, which saw the game to compete against other NHL games involving eight U.S. markets, 4.5 million viewers watched the Capitals defeat the Penguins, 3-1, at Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, surpassing the 4.4 million who watched the 2009 Winter Classic that saw the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings defeat the Chicago Blackhawks, 6-4, at iconic Wrigley Field as the most-watched NHL regular-season game since Feb. 23, 1975 (5.4 million, Philadelphia-New York Rangers on NBC). The 2011 Classic was also up 22 percent vs. last year’s overtime game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins from iconic Fenway Park (3.7 million).



4.5 million Jan. 1, 2011 NBC Capitals-Penguins

4.4 million Jan. 1, 2009 NBC Red Wings-Blackhawks

3.8 million Jan. 27, 1996 FOX Six-game regional coverage

3.8 million Jan. 1, 2008 NBC Penguins-Sabres

3.7 million Jan. 1, 2010 NBC Flyers-Bruins


The rating peaked at a 2.4/4 in both the 8-8:30 p.m. ET and 8:30-9 p.m. ET half hours.

Pittsburgh led all markets with a 32.0 rating, which is up 81 percent from the 17.7 rating the market posted for the inaugural Winter Classic (2008), in which the Penguins competed against the Sabres in Buffalo in snow globe-like conditions with the winning goal provided by Sidney Crosby in a shootout.


Following are the Top 10 metered markets for the 2010 Winter Classic:


1. Pittsburgh, 32.0/46

2. Washington D.C., 7.6/13

3. Baltimore, 6.6/11

4. Buffalo, 5.3/8

T5. St. Louis, 4.3/7

T5. Denver, 4.3/7

7. Boston, 4.0/7

8. Richmond, 3.8/6

9. Philadelphia, 3.5/6

10. Columbus, 3.4/6


HOCKEY ON NBC: NBC Sports has broadcast some of the most-watched hockey games in recent memory. All four Winter Classics are among the Top 5 most-watched regular-season NHL games in 36 years, including this year’s game which is the most-watched with 4.5 million viewers. NBC Sports’ broadcast of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup on June 9, 2010, was the most-watched NHL game in 36 years with 8.28 million viewers. The Olympic gold medal game between Canada and the United States from Vancouver on February 28, 2010, was the most-watched hockey game in the U.S. in 30 years with 27.6 million viewers.



2 Responses to NBC Calls ’11 Winter Classic Highest Rated Regular Season Game in 36 Years

  1. kevin says:

    Nice to see the Capitals impact on Baltimore, Richmond and Washington. Good to see Boston back on the map, too.

  2. Rindu Muncie says:

    Steve: Some people think that this WC would have got better ratings in CA than years past because of the later start time. Can you please post ratings for the Winter Classic in the LA and SF Bay Area for this year’s WC and the last few ones so we can see if there really was an effect? Thanks.

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