Three Theories Explaining the Ratings Increase For the NHL All-Star Game


I’m sure if you were reading this site, along with a lot of others, you know that the VERSUS broadcast of the All-Star Game was the most-watched since 2004, when the game was on broadcast television. You also likely saw that the Skills Competition drew more viewers than any telecast of that event since 2003, and that Friday’s Fantasy Draft did likely some of the best Friday numbers on the VERSUS network ever, aside from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Once I saw those numbers, it got me to thinking why this happened. What got hockey fans more jazzed to see the mid-season exhibition than in years past? I’ve come up with a few potential ideas as to what got 1.5 million people to tune into to see North America’s most star-studded game of shinny.

1. The Fantasy Draft Got People In Early, and Kept Them For the Weekend – The whole weekend might have been for nothing if there weren’t some initial curiosity for the first ever NHL All-Star Game Fantasy Draft, which was for an actual game and not much of a “fantasy” at all, which brought in 624,000 viewers, double VERSUS 2010-11 average to date, and better than all but two of the network’s NHL telecasts this season. It was more than triple the audience for the NHL’s, er, actual Draft in June 2010 (201,000 viewers) and the NHL Awards Show, also in June of 2010 (206,000 viewers). Fact is, hockey fans were starved to see anything catered to them on the desolate Friday between the break and the Skills Competition. Starved enough that they were willing to tune in to something they were maybe a little bit unsure on.

Maybe a lot of them who got into that immediately felt more invested in the weekend as a whole. If you saw the team get picked on Friday, there was more incentive to develop a rooting interest based on who had your favorite players to keep tuning in. Maybe they just tuned in for the initial novelty, but the draft got a good buzz this first time around, so I wouldn’t be shocked if the league tried to hype it up a little bit more and see if there’s even more growth potential for the event in Ottawa next year.

2. People Just Had More of a Rooting Interest – Going along with the theory on the draft, this year gave people a reason to root for their favorite players beyond mere geographical circumstance. Red Wings fans (who turned out pretty well to watch) were clearly curious and vested in a team that was captained by one of this decade’s favorite sons of Hockeytown. Similarly, you have to imagine the ratings in Raleigh were made even better by Hurricane fans having a more unique reason to cheer. It was their boys in addition to the NHL’s best, and it was picked by North Carolina’s most popular current hockey player.

Look at other markets that did well, and they were ones that had players on both sides. Both Chicagoans and Bostonians must’ve seen the clear attraction to having Patrick Sharp and Tim Thomas up against Toews, Kane, Keith and Chara. The All-Star format for 2011 ditched, for once and for all, the phony notion of fans cheering for Conferences or Continents. There’s no pride from either side in representing “your conference”, so why should the fans have any either. This was a chance to root for your favorite individual star, and not the idea something based on geographic pride, which is messed up anyway since Columbus and Detroit are in the “West”.

3. Maybe People Were Just Ready to See the All-Star Game Again? – I mean, why not? 1.5 million hockey fans watching a largely boring offensive showcase that didn’t feature Crosby, Malkin, Zetterberg, Datsyuk and quite a few other members of NHL royalty? It could be possible that leaving the game off the calendar once every for years in exchange for an Olympic tournament is perfect timing. The game just feels like too much of a drag when it must be done every year. When you know there won’t be one in three years, your excitement and anticipation for this and the upcoming ones might possibly grow a little bit more. Perhaps I’m offbase a tad here, but I think NHL fans definitely saw their fondness for this silly game grow a bit in it’s absence. Whatever the reason, it’s reason for people to celebrate the somewhat relevance of the All-Star Game again, but let’s make sure we up the ante for next year.

5 Responses to Three Theories Explaining the Ratings Increase For the NHL All-Star Game

  1. Andrew says:

    Maybe the new NBC Universal cross-promotions helped as well.

  2. kevin says:

    I for the first time in 10 years watched the game itself. I loved the draft on Friday, always love the skills competion. Just felt like it was must see TV. Hope they do it again. Kevin

  3. Justin says:

    For every winter classic, the Buffalo market gets the highest ratings for those not represented in the game. No surprise that they didn’t watch this game. The ratings could have been another bump higher if a Buffalo Sabres player was selected to the actual game.

  4. Morgan Wick says:

    Your last theory would need to be checked against ASG 2007 ratings – were they up over the previous ASG, or perhaps more to the point, succeeding ASGs? Were they close to on par to this one? (I can’t remember off the top of my head when the lockout and move to then-OLN happened.)

    A fourth theory, related to the first: People were attracted to the novelty factor of the whole format. I’ve never seen ESPN talk about the NHL All-Star Game more off the top of my head, certainly not in the Versus era.

  5. stevelepore says:

    The ’07 game had awful ratings, maybe half what this game did.

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