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TV ratings show Sabres fans are losing sleep over the team's early success

Alan Pergament

Buffalo Sabres fans are losing sleep over their team’s strong early season performance. But in a good way.

The team’s hot start had led to an average of a 7.6 rating on MSG over the first nine games. The rating for Buffalo’s 4-3 overtime win over San Jose Tuesday night won’t arrive for a few days.

The first five evening games averaged a 9.0 rating.

An afternoon game with Dallas on Columbus Day had a 6.4 rating, which isn’t surprising since many afternoon games almost always have lower ratings and many fans probably were working while the game was being played.

But here’s the most positive sign for interest in the team and evidence of fans losing sleep: The Sabres’ loss to Anaheim in the first game of the three-game California road trip had a 5.9 rating even though it started at 10 p.m. and ended around 1 a.m.

The Sabres win over the Los Angeles Kings on the following night had a 5.2 rating even though it started at 10:30 p.m. and ended about 1:15 a.m. And the 4-3 win over San Jose in the last game of the trip had a 5.9 rating even though it started at 10:30 p.m. Saturday and ended around 1:15 a.m.

To put those ratings in perspective, it is rare for any prime-time entertainment program on broadcast television to average a 9 live rating in Western New York these days, meaning 9% of the Western New York households with TVs were tuned to that program. It is even rarer for any 10 p.m. prime-time entertainment program to get a rating above a 5.

Most prime-time entertainment programs at all hours don’t even get a 5 rating and they usually are for only 30 minutes or an hour compared to three-hour games that have much more time to sell advertising.

The Sabres averaged an 8.1 rating last season, a 70% gain from the 4.8 average for the 2017-18 season.

But the ratings were as inconsistent as the team, which started the season 17-6-2 and collapsed in March with a 2-12-2 record.

The Sabres’ 10-game winning streak last season started in game 16 and ended in game 26.

The Sabres are ahead of the pace of the first 20 games last season. The first 20 games, which included a five-game West Coast trip, averaged a 6.9 rating. The second 20 games that started five games into the winning streak averaged an 11.3 rating. The third 20 games averaged a 7.9 rating and the last 20 games when the wheels fell off the season averaged a 6.4 rating,

Ratings for Sabres games don’t approach the ratings for Buffalo Bills regular-season games, which get in the range of the mid-30s to the low 40s.


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