Winter Classic’s U.S. television ratings up from last year despite postponement

NEW YORK, N.Y. – The Winter Classic’s television ratings in the United States were up from last year even though it was postponed because of rain.

The start of the NHL’s New Year’s Day game was delayed from 1 to 8 p.m. ET Saturday. The move to prime time meant more people were watching TV at that hour. But it also made for more competition, not to mention the confusion of viewers who might not have known the game was on.

The Washington Capitals’ 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins outdoors at the Steelers’ Heinz Field earned a 2.3 rating and 4 share on NBC. That’s a 10 per cent increase from a 2.1/4 for last year’s overtime game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins at Fenway Park.

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NBC said Monday it was the most-watched regular-season NHL game since a Flyers-Rangers matchup in 1975, when the population was much smaller. The total of 4.5 million viewers for the meeting between stars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin was up from 3.7 million last season.

Ratings represent the percentage of all homes with televisions tuned into a program. Shares represent the percentage of all homes with TVs in use at the time.

CBC, which aired the game in Canada, is not expected to publish its ratings until Tuesday.