Closer games with some bigger schools produced a bump for Frozen Four television ratings over last year’s Frozen Four, but showed no significant improvement over previous years.
Thanks to the much-lamented death of SportsTVRatings, the Frozen Four is basically the only data point we now receive in measuring college hockey’s television revolution that drove decisions in the sport since 2012. It’s also just interesting to see where college hockey fits in with the overall television landscape.
So let’s dive into this year’s ratings. Numbers come via Showbuzz Daily.
Notes on how these ratings work for the uninitiated. We get three bits of information: Total number of viewers, rating in the 18-49 year old demographic, and rank among top-150 original cable programs for that day. Total viewers is self-explanatory. P18-49 is represented as a percentage of the total possible audience. 1.0 means 1% of possible viewers. Rank is based off the 18-49 numbers. A number of shows—typically Fox News/MSNBC/Golf Channel-type stuff have huge raw numbers, but do very poorly in the 18-49 rating. The ranking also only takes into account original programming. Re-runs of shows like Gunsmoke or Friends or whatever do incredibly well, but aren’t listed. For past years, most of the numbers I have are total viewer numbers, but the conversion rate of total viewers to 18-49 rating should be mostly constant.
Ohio State vs. Minnesota Duluth: 225,000/0.08 18-49/117th
In the context of college hockey, this is a decent number. It’s 26% better than last year’s early semifinal game between Minnesota Duluth and Harvard, which drew 178K viewers. It’s also better than the early semis in 2016(BC vs. Quinnipiac, 138K), 2015(Providence vs. Omaha, 196K), and 2014(BC vs. Union, 156K)
But if this was a test case for the theory of big football schools embracing college hockey that college hockey based their western realignment around, it’s not exactly a convincing victory. Ohio State’s fanbase produced a bit of a bump, but 50,000 viewers is basically a rounding error for a real sporting event.
Notre Dame vs. Michigan: 329,000/0.12 18-49/89th
Last year’s late semifinal between Denver and Notre Dame was an absolute ratings disaster with a combination of a later start and the Pioneers putting the game away early in a 6-1 blowout. The game only averaged 155K viewers, which was by far the lowest total in recent years for this game. A close game between two schools with a large alumni allowed for a nice rebound with a 112% improvement over last year.
That number was more in line with a typical year though. In 2016, North Dakota-Denver drew 361K viewers, 2015’s North Dakota-Boston University semifinal drew 290K, and the 0.6 Minnesota-North Dakota semifinal drew 335K.
Again, in the context of college hockey, it’s a solid performance. But this was a theoretical dream match-up for 2013’s New Future of College Hockey between Crown Jewel of Realignment Notre Dame and one of the biggest
football basketball schools in college hockey in Michigan, and it still produced numbers about the same as two schools that maybe have football programs.
Notre Dame vs. Minnesota Duluth: 653,000/0.35/35th
A solid number, and pretty much what was expected. Last year’s championship game between Denver and UMD drew 467K/0.25. The best point of comparison is the 2011 final between Michigan and Minnesota Duluth(also at the X, also won by UMD in a one-goal game), which drew just a shade worse at 624K viewers. Holding steady is nice, but it does suggest there is a ceiling to college hockey interest, and the realignment that has gone on since 2011 hasn’t done much to change that. The full list of championship game ratings dating back to 2009 can be found here.
Only one game during the regional round registered among the top-150 original cable programs for their respective day. Sunday’s Michigan vs. Boston University matinee came in ranked 150th, with 143K viewers and a 0.05 rating in the 18-49 demographic.