Skip to main content

Olympics: Hockey Final Sets Another HD Benchmark

While ratings numbers that attempt to distinguish SD viewers from HD viewers are nowhere to be found, suffice to say Sunday's final hockey match-up between Team USA and Team Canada in the winter Olympics was far and away the most-watched hockey game ever seen in HD in North America.

Given HD's rapid penetration especially in the past couple of years, surely there will be a lot of HD "firsts" for years to come — and this time it was hockey's turn.

The 3-2 American loss in overtime to host Canada was the most-watched sports event of any kind in the past year in the United States, scoring an average audience of more than 27.5 million (and about 34 million at its peak in overtime) — with the lone exception of this winter's Super Bowl.

However, despite some on-air speculation by NBC Sports commentators that the Sunday contest was destined to be the most-watched hockey game in American history, it was not. Beating out Sunday's game by several million were both the semi-final "miracle on ice" defeat of the Soviet Union in 1980, and the final gold medal game against Finland a few days later back then. The gold medal game 30 years ago actually drew a smaller audience than the earlier U.S.S.R. contest (34.2 vs. 32.8 million), according to the New York Times.

In both 1980 contests, of course, HDTV was nowhere to be found (at least outside the labs of NHK in Japan prior to the digital age).