Viewers tune into New Year's Day game

College football is king on New Year’s Day, but enough hockey fans also flipped over to NBC to make its outdoor National Hockey League game a success.

NBC Sports’ coverage of the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic earned a 2.6 overnight household rating/5 share — the best for a regular-season contest since Fox notched a 3.0/7 for its multi-game regional action in February 1996.

In the game, played in a light snowstorm in Buffalo, N.Y., the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 2-1. Contest scored especially well, as expected, in Buffalo (38.2 rating/58 share) and Pittsburgh (17.7/30), but also notched a 3 rating or better in such cities as Boston, Minneapolis, Denver, St. Louis, Las Vegas and Providence.

It was the first outdoor NHL game to be played in the U.S., and the first anywhere since a 2003 game between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens in Edmonton.

The solid ratings perf can only help NBC as it launches into another season of NHL coverage Jan. 20 with the Boston Bruins taking on the New York Rangers. Peacock will air a weekly Saturday afternoon contest most weeks through early April.

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