EARLY NOSEDIVE LEADS TO POOR TV RATINGSNYI at 0.3 – 28th in NHL, last among locals

by Steve Lepore, Puck The Media
Point Blank guest broadcast analyst

As the Islanders hit the bottom of the NHL’s local TV ratings race, they have to be concerned that a season with a circus atmosphere at times has been largely ignored by viewers on television – even more than in the past.

Islanders telecasts are averaging a discouraging 0.3 household rating in the New York market on MSG Network and its affiliates, down 23% from the 2009-10 campaign, and 17% from the end of last season. They are averaging approximately 24,000 households per game. The Islanders rank 28th among NHL teams in local ratings, ahead of only Atlanta (0.26) and Florida (0.19). Due to the size of the New York market, however, they are far from the bottom five in households tuning in, which featured five NHL teams at 10,000 households or lower.

The Islanders’ drop in viewers, while also explained by another bad season, is part of an overall trend of the three New York-area, MSG televised National Hockey League clubs drawing lower numbers from last year. Though ratings tend to rise toward the conclusion of the year, the Rangers and Devils are both down about 8,000 households from the end of the 2009-10 campaign. The Islanders’ drop from last season is the fifth-worst in the NHL.

The Rangers, who have had a surge in buzz with improved play before their current five-game losing streak, are currently drawing an 0.79 average rating, with 59,000 homes in.

The Devils, terrible until a current 9-1-2 run, have a 0.46 rating, with an average 35,000 homes watching. At the end of last season, the Rangers averaged an 0.89 and 67,000 viewers, while the Devils averaged an 0.58 rating and 43,000 viewers by the end of 2009-10. Both teams could see their ratings rise if the Devils continue to improve and the Rangers stay in the playoff race.

Meanwhile, the three local hockey teams are all squished in between the two local basketball franchises. The Knicks are blowing all the winter sports clubs in the area away with their recent revival, averaging 115,000 viewers, way over what they were drawing last year. The Knicks’ newfound hope seems to have put them clearly ahead of the Rangers again, while as recently as two years ago, the Blueshirts were inching ahead of their fellow tenants. Back in New Jersey, the Nets are below even the Islanders, with an average rating of 0.29 and 22,000 viewers despite having the YES Network to themselves.

You have to look at it as a combination of things, really. The fact is, the Islanders’ crippling losing streak of 20 of 21 games destroyed most hope of gaining momentum in the television ratings and the box office. The Devils have been awful in an already very blase, overly complacent market. The Rangers’ numbers could be attributed in part to the Knicks stealing some of their buzz. Expect the Rangers and Devils to improve towards season’s en. While the Islanders may come nowhere close to the Florida Panthers’ 3,000 households per game, they might continue to slide if the games become increasingly meaningless to anyone except the true die-hards.

The author would like to thank John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal, who was very generous with his time and information in support of this article.

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