NBC Shakes Up NHL Television Schedule

By Ben Hamill - September 20 2018

NHL, or the National Hockey League, is widely seen as the staple of Canadian sports entertainment. In fact, the reputation is so widely imprinted that when most think of Canada, ice, skates and fistfights are normally not far behind. Which is to say; perception is that Canadians eat, breath and sleep ice hockey, and spend some time at an online casino; it’s probably to play Break Away. That’s an ice hockey themed casino game, of course! But, as it turns out, the National Hockey League has not exactly been drawing in the viewers like it once did. At least not the regular season. The regular season viewership of the NHL is the lowest it’s been since the current broadcast deal first began back in 2010 – 2011. This certainly seems like reason for concern, although an average of around 471,000 isn’t exactly too shabby. As far as the NHL is concerned, however, this is reason for NBC, the NHL broadcaster, to take a few drastic steps in order to shake things up, and perhaps nip the downward trend in the bud.

Opposing Trends

On the other hand, the Stanley Cup Playoffs saw somewhat of an opposite trend. The Washington Capitals managed an incredible win over the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final, which was an edge of your seat bit of action. This event managed to achieve an astonishing 6.7 million viewers for the NBC, which is the most any playoff game has seen in 16 years. Proof enough that hockey is still a major draw card for television viewership, and that Canadians are as interested in the game as they ever were. Still, the numbers for the regular season speak for themselves, and NBC has gone ahead with its changes, in hopes of drawing back wandering sets of eyes.

Goodbye Wednesday Night Rivalry

Wednesday nights on NBC have been the home of the Wednesday Night Rivalry concept, since it was introduced back in 2012 – 2013. Alex Ovechkin’s head to head showdowns against Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins were the core element of these time slots, but they are being set aside. Instead, Wednesday Night Hockey is taking it’s place. If the move does or doesn’t draw back viewers remains to be seen, but needless to say it is a change that going to shake up NHL broadcasting in a big way. President of production for NBC Sports, Sam Flood, stated simply that the Wednesday Night Rivalry insert does not have the juice that it once did. In terms of other changes being made to normal broadcasting, three major areas were identified. This includes more Western Conference games, more games that specifically feature Canadian teams, and more focus on popular players that have a bright future.

Scheduling Subject To Change

As it stands, the NBC originally announced a grand total of 99 games for the 2018. This was adjusted, however, as 3 more were added to coincide with the Olympic window. Also noteworthy is that the 2019 NHL All-Star Game will be aired in prime time, and not on cable, which is the first time this will occur since way back in 1997. Likely another move to once again ignite as much interest as possible in the sport. Hockey fans likely need not be reminded, but the new season is incoming, and fans are already locking into debates at how the top teams are going to perform. Psyche yourself up, strap yourself in, and get ready for what will surely be another action packed season of Canada’s favorite sport.