Rangers, Islanders see local TV viewership decline in line with trend across NHL

New York Rangers new York Islanders
Rangers center Frank Vatrano (77) skates across the blue line defended by New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech (3) during the first period at UBS Arena.
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers made it to the postseason, but that didn’t help the team’s local TV ratings this year. The Blue Shirts, along with the New York Islanders and the rest of the NHL all saw local television ratings drop during the 2021-22 season. 

Despite making it to the playoffs, the Rangers saw a 29% drop in viewership on MSG Network compared to the COVID shortened season prior and the Islanders saw a 32% dip, according to data analyzed by Sports Business Journal. It was part of a wider trend that saw regional sports networks across the United States see a 23% decline in hockey viewership. 

The New Jersey Devils only saw a 7% decline, but finished with the third-lowest ratings with a .20. 

The 2021-22 season marked the NHL’s first full 82-game season since COVID and for that reason could be why viewership took a dip. The games had extra importance during the 56-game schedule the league played last season. 

Both the Islanders and Devils were nowhere near as competitive as expected this season. After reaching the conference finals in consecutive seasons and making the playoffs three straight years, the Isles missed the postseason and had seen their hopes of making it past the regular season fade by January. 

MSG Networks was also dropped by Comcast in both New Jersey and Connecticut, which meant all three local hockey teams were not available to Comcast subscribers in those areas. The carrier agreement between MSG Networks and Comcast expired on Sept. 30 just before the NHL season was getting ready to begin.

In all the Rangers finished in the middle of the pack with a .87 average ratings this season, while the Islanders pulled just a .37 on MSG+.  The Buffalo Sabres, who also air on MSG Networks upstate, drew the third-best viewership this season with a 3.78. 

In NHL’s first year under its new television rights deal with ESPN and Turner, it did see positive gains. Viewership was up 18% nationally compared to its final year with NBC Sports.