NBC Sports Network’s inaugural Wednesday Night Rivalry telecast netted the national cable network its most-watched NHL regular-season game in its history.
The Jan. 23 telecast of the New York Rangers’ 4-3 overtime win over the Boston Bruins averaged 956,000 viewers, according to Nielsen data, the service's top NHL regular-season telecast dating back to when predecessor service OLN began airing hockey action during the 2005-06. The previous record was set on opening night last season when 874,000 viewers tuned in to see the then-defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins take on the Philadelphia Flyers.
Wednesday’s contest was also the most-watched NHL regular-season game on any cable channel in 11 years, since ESPN drew 1.28 million for San Jose Sharks-Detroit Red Wings in on Jan. 23, 2002. Rangers-Bruins peaked in the second period with 1.09 million viewers in the 8:45 p.m. quarter hour.
Locally, New York scored a 2.07 household rating, the market’s highest-ever rating for an NHL regular-season game on NBC Sports Network, while Boston delivered a 6.94 mark, the second-highest regular-season Bruins game ever on NBC Sports Network, behind only last season’s opening night game against the Philadelphia Flyers (7.39 HH rating). NBC Sports Network was the No. 1 rated network overall in Boston from 7:30-10:15 p.m. ET, and the No. 2 cable network in New York over that span.
Through four games this season, NBC Sports Network has averaged 507,000 viewers, up 53% compared to the 2011-12 season average of 332,000, and up 27% from 398,000 during the first four games last season.