The 2017 NHL All-Star Game returned to U.S. network television for the first time since 2004, as NBC added the midseason classic for its 3-on-3 excitement, its mix of current stars and the nostalgic kick of the 100 greatest players of all-time being on hand.
Was it a success? By hockey standards, yes. By NBC standards, sorta. By general sports ratings standards … well, the NHL lost to the Pro Bowl again, and the Pro Bowl is a heaping pile of garbage.
First, the good news: The NHL All-Star Game drew an average viewership of 2.262 million, and that rounds up to 2.28 million viewers when you include the digital platforms.
The NBC-only broadcast averaged 2.262 million viewers, up 42% vs. the 2016 NHL All-Star Game on NBCSN (1.595 million) and up 46% vs. NBC’s 2015-16 NHL regular-season average (1.545 million). This year’s game (3:39-7 p.m. ET), which marked the event’s return to network television, was the most-watched NHL All-Star Game since 2004, and delivered a 1.32 household rating, up 47% vs. 2016 (0.90; NBCSN).
Viewership of the game peaked in the 6:45-7 p.m. ET quarter hour, as more than 2.5 million viewers (2.529 million) watched the Metropolitan Division, led by Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, All-Star Game MVP Wayne Simmonds, and head coach Wayne Gretzky, defeat the Pacific Division by a score of 4-3 in the championship game.
The Pacific Division, led by Connor McDavid, but we digress…
So that’s good! But the reality is that being the “most-watched NHL All-Star Game since 2004” is simply being “the first NHL All-Star Game on network television instead of cable since 2004.” The last seven were on either Versus or NBCSN. Network TV gets a larger audience than cable. Also, the 2004 game on ABC also drew a better rating than this one.
The 2017 NHL All-Star Game had a 1.6 overnight rating on NBC Sunday afternoon, up a third from last year (1.2) and up 78% from 2015 (0.9), both of which aired on NBCSN.
The 1.6 is the highest for the NHL All-Star Game since it previously aired on a broadcast network, 2004 on ABC (2.5). The previous high over that span was last year’s 1.2 The 1.6 is also the highest for an indoor NHL telecast on any network, not counting the playoffs, since regional action on the opening weekend of the lockout-shortened 2013 season (2.0).
Head-to-head, the All-Star Game trailed ABC’s Thunder/Cavaliers NBA game (2.5) and final round coverage of the PGA at Torrey Pines on CBS (2.1). It also trailed the NFL Pro Bowl later in the night (4.6), though that is a surprise to nobody.
Even if, again, the Pro Bowl makes the NHL All-Star Game look like a jeep ride through Jurassic Park by comparison. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we’d rather have someone trim our eyelashes with a welding torch than watch the Pro Bowl.
By the way, Pittsburgh had the highest local rating at 6.1, followed by Buffalo (5.3), Minneapolis-St. Paul (3.7), St. Louis (3.4) and Chicago (3.1). Los Angeles, where the game was held, didn’t crack the Top 10.