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2017 NCAA Hockey Tournament TV Ratings: Big names help regional ratings rise

Five of the seven tournament games on ESPNU this year outdrew the highest-rated 2016 regional on the channel.

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Media Day Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Buoyed by ESPNU’s highest program over the last 2 weeks, the 2017 NCAA men’s hockey regionals this past weekend bounced back from a year ago.

Five of the seven games on the channel outdrew the the 115K viewers who watched Notre Dame-Michigan in 2016, the most watched ESPNU regional game last year. Three of the four regional finals were up from a year ago. The only exception is Minnesota Duluth-Boston University, which at 157K was on ESPNU rather than the 2016 Midwest regional final between North Dakota and Michigan, which drew 186K on ESPN2. (Two years ago in a similar time slot with the same stakes on the line and Jack Eichel on the ice, BU and UMD drew 158K on ESPNU.)

This year’s ESPN2 regional broadcast, North Dakota-Boston University, was shown in a Friday afternoon slot rather than Saturday. The game, won by BU in 2OTs, drew more viewers as it went on, finishing with an average of 165,000 viewers during the second overtime portion which was moved to ESPNU for the Washington-Mississippi State NCAA women’s basketball game (which doubled its hockey lead-in). The average of 129K viewers for the ESPN2 portion was higher than the similar ESPNU time slot for the past two tournaments. Providence-Harvard drew an average of 31K viewers as its game overlapped the end of BU-UND.

Meanwhile, Minnesota’s return to the NCAA Tournament was a boost in viewership. The Gophers’ game against Notre Dame drew 212K viewers Saturday afternoon on ESPNU, the most for a college hockey game on the channel over the past three years and highest drawing program on ESPNU since the Big 12 conference basketball tournament. Notre Dame’s regional final against UMass-Lowell drew 95K the next day as the Fighting Irish advanced to the Frozen Four.

Penn State’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA men’s hockey tournament nearly doubled (135K to 75K) the comparable timeslot with its regional final against Denver. The third Big Ten team, Ohio State, also drew well. An average of 124K viewers watched the Buckeyes fall in overtime to Minnesota Duluth. That total more than doubled the 2016 comparable time slot and was slightly higher than Minnesota Duluth’s game against Minnesota in 2015 (albeit the latter game was in an afternoon time slot).

College hockey ended up the highest rated program on ESPNU all three days.

2017 Regional TV Ratings

Game Viewers Date Time Slot Network 2016 comparable Difference
Game Viewers Date Time Slot Network 2016 comparable Difference
Minnesota-Notre Dame 212,000 Saturday 3:30 pm ET ESPNU 60,000 152K
North Dakota-Boston University (2OT)*** 165,000 Friday 7-7:30 pm ET ESPNU (51K)
Boston University-Minnesota Duluth 157,000 Saturday 6:00 pm ET ESPNU 186,000+ -29K
Penn State-Denver 135,000 Sunday 6:30 pm ET ESPNU 75,000 60K
North Dakota-Boston University (Up until 2OT) 129,000 Friday 3:00 pm ET ESPN2 186,000+ -57K
Ohio State-Minnesota Duluth 124,000 Friday 8:20 pm ET ESPNU 51,000 73K
Air Force Harvard 122,000 Saturday 8:30 pm ET ESPNU 69,000 53K
Notre Dame-Lowell 95,000 Sunday 3:30 pm ET ESPNU 87,000 8K
Providence-Harvard 31,000 Friday 4:00 pm ET ESPNU 115,000 -84K
Selection Show 68,000
Nathan Wells/SBN College Hockey

All ratings from Sports TV Ratings

****Game overran its time and moved to ESPNU

+Comparable is for the 2016 ESPN2 game, which was shown in a 6 pm time slot on Saturday. An average of 63K viewers watched the 2pm ET Friday game (Northeastern-NoDak)

Note: TV Ratings for ESPNEWS games (i.e. Denver-Michigan Tech) are not known.


Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter --