As we mentioned on Sunday, the NHL Winter Classic between the Penguins and Capitals had really high TV ratings. Now, though, we have a better idea of just how many people watched the NBC broadcast. The answer? Way better than you could have possibly imagined.
According to an NBC press release, Saturday's Winter Classic was not only the most-watched Winter Classic, it was also the most-watched regular-season NHL game in 36 years. No, not the most-watched NHL regular-season game since the lockout. No, not the most-watched NHL regular-season game this decade. The most-watched NHL regular-season game in 36 years! Via CNBC's Darren Rovell:
Winter Classic seen by 4.5 million viewers, most watched regular season NHL game in 36 years
That means it beat any old regular-season Avalanche-Red Wings game, any game involving Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux and any previous game involving Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby, among many others. Lots of factors helped, including the switch to prime time due to the weather, the anticipation created by HBO 24/7 and the Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry, so the NHL has to be careful to attribute the jump to any one reason. But given the success of the game, I think it's safe to say that moving the game to prime time permanently is a good idea.