North American ice hockey’s NHL has announced that its 2023-24 regular season has seen record in-person attendances and rising average viewership across linear TV broadcasts.

Combined average cable viewership on the Disney-owned ESPN sports channel and Warner Bros. Discovery's (WBD) TNT network rose by 8% year-on-year (YoY) on the 2022-23 season, with the league attracting 410,000 viewers per game, the highest cable exclusive viewership average in 30 years.

This figure rose to 504,000 per game (a similar 8% YoY growth) when factoring in national network ABC, also owned by Disney, which made the season the most watched on all TV platforms since 2015-16.

In Canada, the league’s ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ broadcasts on the CBC network also attracted a high viewership growth (7% YoY), averaging 1.27 million viewers per broadcast.

Total in-person attendances across the season totaled 22,873,142, which is the most for an NHL season ever in the league’s 106-year history, representing 97% of the total capacity for combined league games across the season.

The attendance growth came despite the fact there were no major arena expansions prior to the beginning of the season, combined with the presence of the Arizona Coyotes in the league’s smallest-ever arena through the year.

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With the Coyotes franchise relocating to a much larger venue in Utah for the 2024-25 season, even greater attendance may still be yet to come.

This growth in interest in the competition was preempted by its record opening day viewership on ESPN.

The competition kicked off on October 11 with a triple-header of games that drew an average of 909,000 total viewers, with a peak of 1.65 million.

Regular season viewership growth came despite poor performances for several of the NHL’s flagship regular season events.

Its annual winter-time outdoor stadium game, the 2024 Winter Classic, was the least-watched ever for the series, which began in 2008, with a combined average of only 1.1 million viewers tuning in on TNT and its sister basic cable channel truTV, well below the 1.36 million average for the series and the fourth straight below 2 million.