Despite the fact the 2013 NHL season is only a quarter of the way complete, it's already been a successful year for the league and their television partner, NBC Sports Network. In the past, we've touched on some rather impressive ratings from the network, specifically regarding their Wednesday Night Rivalry content.
NBC Sports Network had yet another memorable Wednesday on February 20th as the network announced an audience of 901,000 viewers for the heated contest between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. That number might not sound overly impressive, but it's the second-most watched regular season game in NBC Sports Network history.
The success continued at the local level as the game not only brought in a 14.50 rating in Pittsburgh and a 4.84 rating in Philadelphia, but it was the top overall channel in Pittsburgh and the top cable channel in Philadelphia.
Is the Wednesday Night Rivalry experiment working? Definitely. The rivalry games are averaging 783,000 viewers - a number that's up 83% when compared to Wednesday night exclusive games from the 2011-12 season (427,000 average viewers). Also, the series has already produced 4 of the top 5 NHL regular season games in NBCSN history in just the last two months.
Despite their success with the Wednesday Night Rivalry branding, NBC Sports Network needs to tread carefully moving forward and not oversell the series. Most fans would agree that Pittsburgh-Philadelphia is a fun, bitter rivalry. However, on the same night as the Penguins - Flyers contest, the network tried to depict a heated rivalry between the St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche when one simply doesn't exist.
Tonight they've got Detroit at LA after this PHI vs WASH game. Again... these second games they paint as a rivalry simply aren't.
It is indeed truly amazing that the love of hockey in this country is so great that fans are willing to put up with NBC/NBC Sports utterly inept coverage in order to watch it.