TAMPA — If you’re looking for signs that Tampa Bay has become a hockey town, take a look at the latest ratings from Fox Sports Sun.
The Lightning’s regional television home reported Monday the team enjoyed its highest-rated season ever in 2018-19 with a 2.34 household rating average, a 28 percent increase from the 2017-2018 season. The average rating for the 70 games it broadcast this season surpassed last year’s average of 1.83 households for 75 games. That 2017-2018 number represented a 37 percent increase from the 2016-17 season.
“There are a number of factors, but it certainly speaks to the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, owner Jeffrey Vinik and how they’ve transformed the city and the fan base,” Fox Sports Sun director of media relations Eric Esteban. "They made it a priority to turn Tampa Bay into a hockey town.
“It also helps that our broadcast team, with Rick Peckham and Brian Engblom, has remained steady for several years.”
The Lightning have enjoyed six consecutive seasons of viewership growth, a trend you don’t tend to see with many other teams, according to Esteban.
It also drew record numbers during its March run towards a record-tying 62 wins. March 2019 finished as the highest-rated month of Lightning hockey ever (2.93 HH avg.) on FOX Sports Sun. Five games before the regular season concluded on April 6 were among the season’s highest rated: March 25 vs. Boston (3.43 HH); March 2 vs. Ottawa (3.38 HH); April 1 at Ottawa (3.11) and March 21 at Carolina (3.09 HH).
Overall, the Lightning had 16 games earn a household rating over 3.0 this season. The last regular season Lightning game to register a 3.0 HH or higher before this season was a 2016 home game against the Blackhawks. That was the only game to reach the 3.0 HH mark that season.
Tampa Bay also has added fans through its livestreaming, with the number of viewers between the FOX Sports app and FOX Sports GO jumping 38 percent year-over-year.
Fox Sports Sun will cover all of the Lightning’s first-round playoff games against Columbus, except those exclusive to NBC.
Contact Ernest Hooper at email@example.com. Follow @hoop4you.