NBC Sports Network, formerly Versus and Outdoor Life Network, has been the cable TV home for the NHL since ESPN let go of its hockey rights more than a decade ago. Ratings have been steadily climbing, as NBCSN broadcasts regular season games two or three nights a week, and playoff games every night during the months of April and May—NBCSN is a much better home for the NHL than ESPN, who always treated the league as fourth class below the NFL, MLB and NBA. Even the All-Star Game is doing well this year, with the event this past Sunday setting the record for an All-Star Game on NBCSN.
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Sunday’s NHL All-Star Game in Nashville delivered a 1.17 overnight rating, which NBC reports is the best number on record for an All-Star Game on NBCSN.
That’s well above the projections for the event, which had the All-Star Game coming in at a 0.8 rating.
The ratings were up 24 percent over the 2015 edition from Columbus, considered the nadir of the All-Star Game. It delivered a 0.94 rating, and its overall viewership was down 14 percent from the previous edition in 2012.
There were several reasons that the rating was higher this year. First of all, the NHL switched to a 3 on 3 format to make the games more exciting, and added a million dollar prize for the winning team to make it more competitive. Also, enforcer John Scott, who the NHL had been trying to keep out of the game despite his victory in the fan vote, was the team captain for the Pacific Division team and won MVP with two goals, capping a storybook ending to his career story.
The ratings will likely go down next year, as the controversy likely led people to watch. But the game itself was much better than All-Star games past, and if they stick with this new format it should remain entertaining well into the future.