NHL sees steady growth with younger female fans | Company

By JOE REEDY – AP Sports Writer

One of the NHL’s biggest stories this season was the increase in viewership in the first year of its television deals with ESPN and TNT. The league is also experiencing unprecedented growth in the number of female and younger fans, which should have a big impact in the years to come.

According to an NHL study, 37% of hockey fans are women, including a staggering 26% growth in this demographic since 2016. Most of these new fans are likely also in the coveted 18 age bracket. 49, since almost 40% of all NHL fans are under 50.

Kali Mick — an Avalanche fan who lives in Colorado and serves on the league’s Young Power Players Advisory Board — said the recent growth comes as the league has more emphasized the human side of the game.

“We’re seeing more player interviews, family moments and those heartfelt things that happen off the ice, and that mix of big highlights that we’re seeing as well,” she said. “It’s been really great to help get more people into the game because people who don’t know the sport will connect more with the human moments. And then the highlights will grab their attention.

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The increase in female viewers was higher for Wednesday night matches on TNT. During the regular season, there was a 44% increase in viewership compared to previous years when games aired on NBCSN.

“Not only do we want to give our passionate fans the content they love, but how do we share it with casual and new fans and make sure they feel welcome,” said Heidi Browning, vice-president. Senior Executive Chairman and Chief Marketing Officer of the NHL. officer.

The effort to develop connections has included social media. The league formed a content partnership with TikTok while the Turner deal saw Bleacher Report expand its coverage and B/R vertical Open Ice. Hockey site Bleacher Report posted its most viewed month (35.8 million page views) in May and saw engagement triple from a year ago.

Browning is also pleased with the share of young NHL fans. League research found that 80% of users of its digital channels are Gen Z and Millennials. The Power Players Council, established in 2019, solicits opinions from fans and social influencers aged 13-17 year.

Aidan Gunn, who is also on the board, highlighted the changes in marketing for growth.

“They took a less professional approach to their marketing. And I mean that in the best possible way. It’s so much more personal,” he said. “I really believe that social media is basically an elevator pitch, you have two seconds to grab someone’s attention. And I think (in) the NHL that was fully reflected in their strategy of marketing recently. They’ve done so much better by revamping all of their content.”

Mack said of the things she noticed in the board recommendations is more activity on TikTok showing things like players entering the arena, similarly to pre-game mode choices. game increased traffic on NBA and NFL sites.

Growing numbers of younger fans are also expected to lead to increased revenue in future seasons. Commissioner Gary Bettman said revenue is expected to exceed $5.2 billion this year. While the off-ice stories helped, Bettman continues to emphasize that it’s also about the on-ice product.

“The growth and interest starts with the game,” Bettman said before the start of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The NHL’s efforts received a bonus Friday night as the Finals was pushed back to Game 6 on Sunday night, where Tampa Bay will host Colorado and try to force a decisive Game 7 in their three-time championship bid.

AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this story.

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