Pittsburgh Penguins center Evan Rodrigues (9) takes a break and Tampa Bay Lightning goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) holds off during the NHL hockey game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins on October 12, 2021 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL , a parade.
Andrew Bershaw | Sportswire icon | Getty Images
The National Hockey League started its 2021/22 season on Tuesday. It’s also the first year of its $ 1 billion media rights package with ESPN and Turner Sports.
The broadcasters said the NHL had an average of 884,000 viewers for ESPN’s double header on Tuesday, and Turner drew around 669,500 viewers for its national slot on Wednesday. Both numbers are above the NHL average for the last two season openers.
In ESPN’s first game, the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated reigning Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2. That game averaged 984,000 viewers on Tuesday and peaked at over a million viewers, according to ESPN, which used metrics from research firm Nielsen.
The Disney-owned network added that the 2021 contest surpassed its last highly rated NHL opener in October 2001 between the Penguins and Colorado Avalanche. This kick-off in 2001 drew 927,000 spectators.
ESPN also made its debut with the expanding franchise Seattle Kraken, which fell 4-3 against the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The game reached an average of 782,000 viewers and also peaked at over a million viewers. The network said that ESPN + streaming metrics are not included in viewership.
By comparison, the first game of the 2020-21 NHL season opener averaged 972,000 viewers on NBC’s sports network. This competition featured the Philadelphia Flyers and Penguins and was the most watched regular season game on NBCSN.
Other games from last season’s triple header were the Chicago Blackhawks against the Lightning and Avalanche against the St. Louis Blues. The combined television show had an average of 774,000 viewers, up from 600,000 viewers the previous season.
Alex Ovechkin # 8 of the Washington Capitals shoots the puck against the New York Rangers during the second period at Capital One Arena on October 13, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Patrick Smith | Getty Images
The NHL ended its 16-year partnership with NBC Sports, reaching a $ 1 billion package with ESPN and Turner Sports last April.
On Wednesday, TNT released its national double-headed package, adding some crossover appeal. The network featured star NBA commentator Charles Barkley on the pregame show of the Washington Capitals 5-1 win over New York Rangers. The game averaged 817,000 viewers, peaking at 920,000 between 9:00 PM and 9:15 PM ET.
In the competition, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin scored two goals to move up to fifth place all-time. Ovechkin, 36, has 732 career goals and needs 163 more to break Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record of 894 goals. TNT said there was an average of 522,000 viewers for the second competition, in which the Avalanche beat the Blackhawks 4-2.
On the ad front, metrics company EDO estimates that the automotive category leads with 15.4% of ad spend for this season’s NHL opening games. Restaurants accounted for 12.9% and insurance for 11.9% of advertising spend. EDO added Apple advertising that led the search engagement. It’s a metric the company uses to measure online brand search activity in the minutes after a TV ad is broadcast.