blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: The Truth About NHL TV Ratings

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Truth About NHL TV Ratings

“I think all of this blanket categorization that ‘hockey doesn’t work in the Sun Belt’ is complete hogwash. We have a lot of great fans throughout the Sun Belt.” Gary Bettman, February 4, 2009
Really? Do they own television sets?

Recently, the Washington Post and New York Times calculated the number of households in US markets, save Carolina and Nashville for which data was unavailable, watching their local NHL team on TV during the first half of the season. The chart below builds on their work, showing the total number of households as well as the number of households per capita watching each game in their respective market.

Team: Per Capita=Total
BUF: 1/11 = 55,980
PIT: 1/16 = 71,006
DET: 1/27 = 71,297
PHI: 1/45 = 65,494
MIN: 1/45 = 38,417
BOS: 1/46 = 52,036
COL: 1/60 = 25,149
CLB: 1/70 = 13,239
STL: 1/76 = 16,497
SJS: 1/80 = 30,955
WAS: 1/83 = 27,859
CHI: 1/93 = 37,373
NYR: 1/97 = 76,568
DAL: 1/192 = 12,947
PHO: 1/200 = 9,279
TBL: 1/209 = 8,928
NJD: 1/263 = 28,248
LAK: 1/263 = 21,486
ANA: 1/344 = 16,397
ATL: 1/435 = 5,450
NYI: 1/588 = 12,637
FLA: 1/667 = 2,320

The per capita data shows that 1 in 11 households in Buffalo caught each Sabres game while a mere 1 in 667 Miami-Fort Lauderdale households tuned into the Panthers. (Both amazing statistics in their own right.) In fact, 7 of the weakest 9 teams in terms of household viewership per capita are located in the Sun Belt (Dallas 1/192, Phoenix 1/200, Tampa Bay 1/209, Los Angeles 1/263, Anaheim 1/344, Atlanta 1/435, Florida 1/667).

If total households is your game, how about this fun fact. More people living in Buffalo (51st largest US TV market) watched their home team each night (55,980) than did fans of the Ducks (16,397) in Los Angeles (2nd largest US TV market), the Stars (12,947) in Dallas (5th largest US TV market), the Thrashers (5,450) in Atlanta (8th largest US TV market), the Coyotes (9,279) in Phoenix (12th largest US TV market), the Lightning (8,928) in Tampa Bay (13th largest US TV market), and the Panthers (2,320) in Miami-Fort Lauderdale (16th largest US TV market) watch theirs, combined. Yeah, combined.

In terms of on-ice success (as measured by Stanley Cup Finals appearances), Buffalo has been to the finals only twice (1975, 1999) in their 39 year franchise history, losing both times. Collectively, the aforementioned Sun Belt franchises have enjoyed 6 cup appearances (Dallas 2, Anaheim 2, Florida 1, Tampa Bay 1) in the past 13 years, winning three times (Dallas 1999, Tampa Bay 2004, Anaheim 2007). If anything, fans south of the 35th parallel should have more to cheer about than their Buffalonian counterpart.

Anyway you slice it, the NHL's Sun Belt teams pull up the rear in terms of TV ratings. Does that mean "hockey doesn't work in the Sun Belt"? Technically hockey works anywhere you can freeze water and field five skaters and a goalie. Is there "a lot of great fans throughout the Sun Belt"? Well they may be great, but there sure ain't a lot of them.

And that's no hogwash.