by Simon Bassett
January 3, 2014 (ISN) – Canadian viewers made sure that CBC’s broadcast of the 2014 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic® on Wednesday, Jan. 1 lived up to its billing as the biggest outdoor game ever for the NHL. A record 3.57 million viewers across the country took in the Original Six match-up at Michigan Stadium that featured a shootout victory by the Toronto Maple Leafs over the host Detroit Red Wings.
Not only does this number represent the largest audience for an outdoor NHL game on CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA, it is also the largest audience ever for a non-playoff NHL game in Canadian broadcast history.
Ratings data from the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement (BBM) show the average audience for the Toronto vs. Detroit game surpassed the next-highest regular-season audience for CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA by 7.6 per cent, topping the previous mark set by the season-opening Toronto vs. Montreal Canadiens game from Jan. 19, 2013. Wednesday’s game also surpassed the previous record audience for a Winter Classic game by 87 per cent, previously held by the Jan. 1, 2011 match-up between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Overall, the game reached 8.75 million Canadians while the audience peaked at more than 5.3 million viewers at 4:48 p.m. ET at the start of the third round of the shootout.
Compared to the most recent edition of the Winter Classic, which aired Jan. 2, 2012, CBC’s online coverage saw significant increases in several categories, including a 123 per cent jump in streams initiated during the game and a 92 per cent increase in average viewing time. Online traffic to the hockey section of CBC.ca/Sports was busy with 234 per cent more page views, 523 per cent more visits and 519 per cent more unique visitors to the site on New Year’s Day. In addition, hockey fans around the world on Twitter were engaged during the Winter Classic, with more than 177,000 tweets registered using the official hashtag #WinterClassic on January 1.
(Television audience numbers source: BBM Canada, Total Canada, Preliminary Overnights, Ind. 2+, 2014)
(Online audience number source: 2014 SiteCatalyst)