NHL Winter Classic In Prime Time Is TV Ratings Gold For NBC

The numbers are trickling in from Saturday Night's Winter Classic, and NBC should be very pleased by the results. According to TVByTheNumbers, more 18-49 year olds watched the Winter Classic on Saturday Night than any other network television program, allowing NBC to dominate a huge demographic. It's not clear whether the Winter Classic beat the Fiesta Bowl or any other cable programming, but considering the networks are so big, it's a huge win for the NHL and for NBC.

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It gets better, though. According to Puck the Media's Steve Lepore, this was the highest-rated NHL game since 1996. We're talking about the highest-rated game in the NHL in the post-lockout era, as well as during a huge portion of the pre-lockout era. Obviously, it was also the highest-rated Winter Classic ever. All this happened despite rain forcing them game from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

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Travis Hughes of SBNation.com asks the obvious question: why not just put the game in prime time going forward? It's a worthwhile question to consider, and the evidence is strong. That said, it's also worth noting that the buildup and anticipation for last night's game was unlike any other in Winter Classic history, with the Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry, the Penguins-Capitals history and the HBO 24/7 show all in play. It's safe to say that this game would have garnered high TV ratings no matter what time it was played. 

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