Skip to main content

Winter Classic's poor TV rating is beside the point

The 2015 NHL Winter Classic's low TV rating revealed a cold reality about the event.

The bad news came a day after the Capitals and the Blackhawks delivered what may have been the most entertaining Winter Classic to date.

NBC is reporting a 2.3 overnight rating for the New Year’s Day game from Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., the lowest overnight number for any of the seven Winter Classics.

Oh, the horror!

There already have been some pretty comical attempts to spin the news, including this gem from NBC Sports PR that swooned over the fact that the ratings were up 77% over the regular season game average from 2013–14. But no one’s going to buy that silliness. Nor was anyone caught by surprise.

No matter how dramatic the ending, Thursday’s game had plenty stacked against it from a television perspective, starting with competition from a raft of highly anticipated college football bowl games. Add in the fact that this year’s Winter Classic served as the showcase for a low-wattage rivalry and it actually is a wonder the ratings were as high as 2.3.

Winter Classic win latest sign Capitals could be on verge of breakthrough

Sure, Chicago is a marquee franchise, exactly the sort of team that should guarantee eyeballs, but there’s a fatigue factor to consider—the Blackhawks have made three outdoor appearances in the last five years, including last winter’s Stadium Series game at Soldier Field. Washington? The Caps may have Alex Ovechkin, but he's a draw in the manner of an aging Tom Cruise. Ovi is famous enough, but he's nowhere near as compelling a draw as he was years ago (and despite the best efforts of GEICO, Nicklas Backstrom will never be a draw of any kind). And with no history or storyline drawing these clubs together, the matchup made as much sense as a fish on a bicycle.

And then there was the setting. While the league did a spectacular job with the layout, Nationals Park is ultimately just another cookie-cutter baseball stadium, lacking the visual or historical hooks that might get viewers to drop the remote the way they did for hockey in the Big House or at Wrigley Field or Fenway Park.

Scroll to Continue

SI Recommends

GALLERY: THE NHL OUTDOORS

Wild-Hawks-stadium-Bettcher.jpg
Wild-Hawks-fans-Adam-Bettcher.jpg
Wild-Hawks-Pominville-Foslien.jpg
Wild-Hawks-action-Foslien.jpg
Winter-Classic-16-Gillette-Maddie-Meyer.jpg
2016-Classic-fans-Jim-Rogash.jpg
2016-classic-goalies-sandford.jpg
2016-Classic-Canadiens.Meyer.jpg
winter-classic-washington_0.jpg
classic-crowd-bruty.jpg
classic-ice-action-bruty.jpg
Classic-brouwer-hit-mark-goldman-icon.jpg
classic-crawford-ovechkin-bruty.jpg
Classic-Brouwer-winner-mark-goldman.jpg
Stadium-Series-Levis-Beck.jpg
Stadium-Series-Levis-Beck-action.2.jpg
Stadium-Series-Levis-Beck-Fogerty.jpg
Stadium-Series-Levis-Beck-action.jpg
140303100910-soldier-field-wimmer-single-image-cut.jpg
140303100906-soldier-field-fans-brian-kersey-single-image-cut.jpg
140303100846-corey-crawford-robin-alam-icon-single-image-cut.jpg
140303100901-sidney-crosby-brian-babineau-single-image-cut.jpg
140303100857-jonathan-toews-getty-single-image-cut.jpg
140303100838-bc-place-vinnick-single-image-cut.jpg
140303100841-bettman-collins-light-single-image-cut.jpg
140303100853-heritage-uniforms-vinnick-single-image-cut.jpg
140303100849-heritage-action-sandford-single-image-cut.jpg
140303130022-heritage-classic-fans-single-image-cut.jpg
140130132820-yankee-stadium-night-single-image-cut.jpg
140130132804-isles-fans-2-single-image-cut.jpg
140130132759-evgeni-nabokov-single-image-cut.jpg
140130132808-ranger-fans-single-image-cut.jpg
140130132816-yankee-fireworks-single-image-cut.jpg
140130132812-rangers-depart-single-image-cut.jpg
140126174235-yankee-stadium-view-single-image-cut.jpg
140126174224-devils-fans-single-image-cut.jpg
140126174232-southside-johnny-single-image-cut.jpg
140126174227-devils-rangers-view-single-image-cut.jpg
140126174230-martin-brodeur-single-image-cut.jpg
140126123623-dodger-stadium-aerial-single-image-cut.jpg
140126125033-dodger-volleball-vinnick-single-image-cut.jpg
140126123637-usc-band-beck-single-image-cut.jpg
140126123635-gretzky-family-beck-single-image-cut.jpg
140126123627-dodger-stadium-fans-single-image-cut.jpg
140126123632-ducks-kings-game-beck-single-image-cut.jpg
140101203117-big-house-hallip-single-image-cut.jpg
131231105120-comerica-park-single-image-cut.jpg
140101203128-winter-classic-fans-schechter-single-image-cut.jpg
140101203121-red-wings-classic-shamus-single-image-cut.jpg
140101203124-winter-classic-action-shamus-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102823-heritage-edmonton-fan-sandford-single-image-cut.jpg
130320160242-edmonton-classic-sandford-lead-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102800-heritage-2003-klutho-2-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102827-heritage-edmonton-sandford-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102803-heritage-2003-klutho-single-image-cut.jpg
130320114528-heritage-edmonton-sandford-habs-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102852-theodore-heritage-sandford-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102807-heritage-2003-vinnick-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102725-buffalo-classic-klutho-2008-single-image-cut.jpg
130320120615-buffalo-classic-wippert-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102722-buffalo-classic-icon-smi-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102715-buffalo-classic-crew-klutho-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102719-buffalo-classic-crosby-klutho-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102901-wrigley-classic-warren-wimmer-icon-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102855-wrigley-classic-jamie-squire-getty-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102905-wrigley-reginek-single-image-cut.jpg
130320115946-wrigley-daniel-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102858-wrigley-classic-walker-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102751-fenway-classic-strohmeyer-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102754-fenway-classic-2-sandford-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102748-fenway-classic-sandford-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102743-fenway-classic-michael-tureski-iconi-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102728-classic-fenway-klutho-2-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102740-fenway-classic-mcisaac-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102849-pittsburgh-classic-2-vuich-single-image-cut.jpg
130320115943-crosby-ovechkin-classic-sandford-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102833-pens-caps-classic-klutho-single-image-cut.jpg
130320114531-pittsburgh-classic-sandford-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102846-pittsburgh-classic-vuich-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102813-heritage-calgary-dylan-lynch-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102817-heritage-calgary-gerry-thomas-3-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102810-heritage-calgary-gerry-thomas-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102820-heritage-calgary-sandford-2-single-image-cut.jpg
130320102830-hertiage-calgary-gerry-thomas-2-single-image-cut.jpg