The 2016 Winter Classic continued the event’s ratings dive. Previously, the 2015 Winter Classic was the least-viewed Classic, bringing in a rating of 2.3. The 2016 edition sank even lower, posting a rating of just 1.6.
Per NBC Sports, the 2016 Winter Classic earned a 1.6 household rating in the US with 2.775 mil. viewers. Lowest of the 8 Winter Classics.
— Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) January 3, 2016
The 1.6 rating is lost without a bit of context. Here’s a look at how the other seven Winter Classic games performed as far as ratings are concerned.
NHL Winter Classic overnight ratings: 2015: 2.3 2014: 2.9 2013: No game. 2012: 2.4 2011: 2.8 2010: 2.6 2009: 2.9 2008: 2.6
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) January 2, 2015
Looking at the numbers above, fans were eager to digest the outdoor game in 2014 following a year in which the Classic was cancelled due to the lockout. Since then, the ratings have been sinking.
If you’re a regular reader here at PDL, this won’t surprise you. Heading into the game, it was clear that fans weren’t that excited for the Winter Classic. Unless you had a rooting interest in one of the teams or unless you’re a hockey fan who has managed to avoid outdoor game fatigue, the game wasn’t high on the ol’ priority list.
The Winter Classic has lost its luster. We ran an article on this very fact in 2014. Since then, the league hasn’t taken any steps to spice things up. The same handful of teams have participated in multiple outdoor games. The venues have been mostly underwhelming outside of the Big House. Instead of attempting something bold and hosting the game in a more unique venue (we put together a list of 10 places we’d like to see a game) or with different teams, the NHL is playing things safe. Instead of allowing the Winter Classic to be the lone, premier outdoor event, the NHL opted for greed and have hosted numerous outdoor games over the last few years. As a result, the Winter Classic fell out of “must-see” territory.
Ratings aside, the Winter Classic will continue to be a big success as far as a live event is considered. The game will always sell a ton of tickets regardless of venue. Merchandise sales will be huge. However, the NHL has watered down what could have been and should have been an event fans won’t consider missing on television and they have a lot of work to do before the ratings start improving.