TNT sets cable record with Winter Classic, but game draws its lowest viewership ever

By Austin Karp

TNT’s first NHL Winter Classic telecast saw mixed results for the New Year’s Day audience. The game delivered a historically strong cable TV number for the league, but a record low figure for the annual outdoor game, which had been on NBC since its creation in '08. TNT averaged 1.4 million viewers for the Blues-Wild game at Target Field, which is the NHL’s best regular-season audience on record on cable TV. The previous regular-season record was also 1.4 million back on Dec. 27, 2000 for Maple Leafs-Penguins, which was Mario Lemieux’s first game back from cancer. But while the game was a cable TV success, the audience predictably was a record low with the move off NBC. The game is down 29% from the last Winter Classic two years ago (1.97 million for Predators-Stars from the Cotton Bowl). That was the previous Winter Classic low. The game had some other headwinds beyond the switch from broadcast to cable. With COVID shutting down many NHL games in the leadup to holiday season, that meant less promotion for the Winter Classic across the league’s media partners. The game, which started at 7:00pm ET, also had competition into the second period from the Rose Bowl, which was a close shootout featuring Ohio State-Utah. The end of the Winter Classic then ran into the start of the Sugar Bowl. Locally, the game was a winner in St. Louis and Minneapolis-St. Paul. The NHL saw its best regular-season rating in the Arch City since the Blackhawks-Blues Winter Classic in '17. In the Twin Cities, the league saw its best regular-season figure in the market since a Blackhawks-Wild game on Feb. 21, 2016.

'22 Blues-Wild Target Field TNT 1,362
'21 No game due to COVID
'20 Predators-Stars Cotton Bowl NBC 1,974
'19 Bruins-Blackhawks Notre Dame Stadium NBC 2,968
'18 Rangers-Sabres Citi Field NBC 2,429
'17 Blackhawks-Blues Busch Stadium NBC 2,557
'16 Canadiens-Bruins Gillette Stadium NBC 2,775
'15 Blackhawks-Capitals Nationals Park NBC 3,472
'14 Maple Leafs-Red Wings Michigan Stadium NBC 4,404
'13 No game due to lockout
'12 Rangers-Flyers Citizens Bank Park NBC 3,733
'11 Capitals-Penguins Heinz Field NBC 4,525
'10 Flyers-Bruins Fenway Park NBC 3,684
'09 Red Wings-Blackhawks Wrigley Field NBC 4,401
'08 Penguins-Sabres Ralph Wilson Stadium NBC 3,751
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Winter Classic viewership chart

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