There was no separate American live telecast of the 2003 Heritage Classic. ESPN, the American rights-holder at the time, was already committed to broadcasting college football on its channels during that day. American viewers who wanted to watch the game live could view the Canadian CBC broadcast on NHL Center Ice.
In 2008, some NBC affiliates decided instead to air the game on secondary channels often used for weather service. Therefore, in some markets, fans with a satellite service carrying DirecTV or DISH Network were unable to watch the game. Despite this, and competing with broadcasts of college football bowl games (this was particularly noted in the Detroit, Michigan market, usually a strong market for hockey ratings, where the Wolverines were playing in the Capital One Bowl), the game garnered a 2.6 rating and 5 share, the highest rating for a regular season NHL game since 1996, and the highest share since Wayne Gretzky's final game in 1999, in a near tie with second-place CBS' 2.7 rating for Gator Bowl coverage. The production earned a 38.1 rating in Buffalo and 17.7 rating in Pittsburgh, to lead all markets.
NBC had an airplane flying overhead to provide bird's-eye views of the rink, including a live webstream from its camera throughout the game. The announcers stood in a constructed perch on the penalty box side of the rink, in front of the stadium stands.
On January 3, 2009, the NHL reported that the overnight television ratings had increased 12% over the 2008 game. Nationally, the game had 2.9 overnight rating and a 6 share. In Chicago, Thursday's game drew a national high of an 11.8 rating and 21 share, with Detroit second at 10.5 and 21 (this despite that yet again, a Michigan-based team was playing in the Capital One Bowl opposite the Winter Classic—this time the Michigan State Spartans). Other above-average markets included Buffalo (whose 10.1 rating/20 share was comparable to Detroit's), St. Louis (5.3/10), Pittsburgh (4.4/8), Denver (4.2/10), Providence (3.5/7), Indianapolis (3.4/6), West Palm Beach (3.3/6), and Orlando (3.2/5). Each overnight ratings point equals about 735,000 TV homes. On January 12, the final ratings figure was announced. There was an average of 4.4 million viewers of the game on NBC, and this was the largest since the February 23, 1975 match between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers.
Despite the overwhelming popularity of the original Heritage Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and the Edmonton Oilers in 2003, the popularity of the Winter Classic in Canada is low and declining. On Canada's CBC Television network, the Winter Classic has lower ratings than its weekly regular season telecasts Hockey Night in Canada. This has been attributed to the lack of Canadian teams in any of the Winter Classics and has led to a revival of the all-Canadian Heritage Classic.