With no Canadian teams in the NHL Playoffs ratings in the Great White North have dropped dramatically – roughly 61 per cent – compared to last season through the first week of hockey.
Through the first five nights (April 13-17) of the NHL playoffs an average of about 500,000 viewers tuned in to broadcasts on Sportsnet’s cable channels and CBC.
That is a drop of nearly 800,000 from the 1.3 million who tuned in over the same period in 2015, when the Winnipeg Jets, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames, and Vancouver Canucks were all competing for the Stanley Cup.
According to Numeris, the NHL playoffs didn’t even crack the top 30 shows among Canadians audiences that week.
The disappointing results come two years into Rogers Media giant $5.2-billion, 12-year deal for the rights to NHL games.
“The drop in ratings can easily be attributed to a few things, just a lack of Canadian teams perhaps even a decline in interest in hockey among certain groups of people,” said Vijay Setlur, marketing instructor at York University’s Schulich of Business. “Increasing numbers of people don’t follow hockey because it’s not their number one sport.”
Setlur also says the ratings paint an incomplete picture as they don’t factor in the “cord cutting effect,” viewers who are moving away from traditional cable packages.
“If people have cut their cable but they are still stream the game through NHL Game Centre app, those numbers are counted,” he said. “It’s not necessarily painting an accurate view of what the viewership is.”
Global News reached out to Rogers for an interview but was declined.
Marvin Ryder, an assistant professor at McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business, said Sportsnet will be anxiously looking ahead to a second round matchup between Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins and Alex Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals, but doesn’t see more fans tuning in.
“Once you lose fans is it’s next to impossible to get them back,” he said. “I don’t think ratings are going to get better.”
Speaking at a meeting of Associated Press Sports Editors on Friday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he wasn’t concerned about the lagging numbers.
“When you look at a first round where you go from having five Canadian teams to none, you’re going to see an impact in ratings,” Bettman said. “Let’s see what it looks like as it goes on. If we get a great Stanley Cup Final, I’m sure hockey fans from all over will find it compelling and will watch.”
*With a file from the Associated Press