What If They Held An NHL Stanley Cup Final And Nobody Watched?

Categories: TV Ratings Reference,TV Sports Ratings & News

Written By

June 5th, 2012

After three games, this year's Stanley Cup Final between the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils is in danger of having the second lowest TV viewership average since at least 1995 (perhaps earlier, I lack the data). Our polled readers turned out to have been wildly optimistic.

The ballpark average of 2.5 million for those three games, and likely less than that average for game four on NBCSN on Wednesday, would likely make a four game sweep fall to the second lowest viewership since 1995.


What happened?
  • Because of the strike compressed NBA season, Stanley Cup Final matches have gone head to head with NBA Conference Finals games which would not be the case during a normal NBA season.
  • While LA and NY are the two largest US TV markets, neither team generates enthusiasm among a significant portion of those large markets, as opposed to how Boston, Chicago, Detroit or Pittsburgh would.
A four game sweep by LA on Wednesday night would certainly make Kings fans happy, but not NBCU or the NHL (or Devils fans, of course).

NHL Stanley Cup Finals TV Ratings, 1995-2011

Year Net Games Household Rating Household Share Average Households (million) Average Viewers (million) Teams
2011 NBC/VS** 7 2.7 5  4.6 Boston v. Vancouver
2010 NBC/VS** 6 3.4 6 Chicago v. Philadelphia
2009 NBC/VS** 7 3.1 6 Pittsburgh v. Detroit
2008 NBC/VS 6 2.6 5 2.929 4.479 Pittsburgh vs. Detroit
2007 NBC/VS 5 1.2 2 1.307 1.764 Ottawa vs. Anaheim
2006 NBC/OLN** 7 1.8 3 1.994 2.834 Carolina vs,Edmonton
2005 NHL Season Cancelled
2004 *ABC/ESPN 7 2.2 4 2.366 3.286 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Calgary Flames
2003 *ABC/ESPN 7 2.4 4 2.557 3.627 New Jersey Devils vs. Anaheim Ducks
2002 ABC 3 3.6 7 3.815 5.768 Detroit Red Wings vs. Carolina Hurricanes
2001 ABC 5 3.3 6 3.371 5.058 Colorado Avalanche vs. New Jersey Devils
2000 ABC 4 3.7 8 3.734 5.511 New Jersey Devils vs. Dallas Stars
1999 FOX 3 3.4 6 3.379 4.873 Dallas Stars vs. Buffalo Sabres
1998 FOX 1 3.3 6 3.230 4.830 Detroit Red Wings vs. Washington Capitals
1997 FOX 1 4.0 8 3.930 6.370 Detroit Red Wings vs. Philadelphia Flyers
1996 FOX 2 3.6 7 3.430 5.090 Colorado Avalanche vs. Florida Panthers
1995 FOX 2 3.4 8 3.254 5.210 New Jersey Devils vs. Detroit Red Wings

*ABC had 5 telecasts & ESPN had 2 telecasts so this is the combined average of both networks.

**2006 NBC had 5 telecasts & OLN had 2 telecasts so this is the combined average of both networks. 2009 NBC had 5 games, Versus had 2 games. 2010 NBC had 4 games, Versus had 2 games. 2011 NBC had 5 games, Versus had 2 games.

Data for 2006-11 is Live+SD, all previous years is Live viewing.

I know that average viewership and household ratings are meaningless to the business of NBC and NBCSN, but like most historical data that's all we've got.

Unfortunately, while the 2009 and 2010 Stanley Cup Final household ratings were well above those for any year since 2002, I was unable to find average viewership for the SCF as a whole for those years. I could only find the NBC telecast viewership averages (which were 6.1 million for 4 games in 2010, and 5.6 million for 5 games in 2009).

Nielsen TV Ratings Data: ©2012 Nielsen Media Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

  • CP


  • Kings Fan

    Viewership in the Los Angeles / Orange County area would be significantly larger for Game 3 (and Game 4 too) if they did not show it on a network (NBCSN) that most viewers have to PAY for on a separate tier than their normal cable. It’s the 3rd and now 4th games that count the most, and in a local market most people cannot easily view them. Very sad. Let’s hope the Kings bring home the cup and establish LA as a more viable hockey market going forward. There is more to LA than the Dodgers and the Lakers.

  • Ultima

    You have two of the least popular teams playing a one-sided series. These things happen.

  • d4h8a15r16m23a42

    Most people in LA have never seen ice except in film and most of the NY market hates the Devils so you really don’t have either market. Game 4 will probably be up a little over game 3 but you’ll never get same the ratings as a series with an original 6 or historic team.

  • TatiG

    The idea of people skating on the Ice in June in LA is ridiculous. End this thing in April or May.

    Also, it’s a little bit of xenophobia. LA Kings have enough fans to fill the Arena, but that is about it.

  • v

    I would like to see the comparison between the ratings in the US and in Canada… Even if we don’t have a team in the finals!

    Do you have an idea where I could find the Canadian numbers?

  • One

    I wonder if the ACTUAL New York hockey teams (Islanders and Rangers) would engender a bigger response from fans inside the city.

  • Breakaway


    Now, now — to be fair, I’m sure the residents of LA have also seen ice in their drinks. :-)

    Otherwise, you are right on the money. This series has no stars, no cachet and very little reason for anyone besides the diehards to watch (and I say this as someone who loves hockey)

  • Jay S.

    Hockey after Memorial Day is just dumb. Period.

  • 728huey

    What the Kings have done during the whole chase for the Stanley Cup has been nothing short of amazing, but most people who aren’t diehard hockey fans wouldn’t be able to pick the Kings’ players out of a police lineup. In addition, whatever sports fans populate LA are going to be huge fans of the Dodgers, Lakers, and USC football. They’re only now warming up the Clippers now that they are a playoff team, and the Angels and Ducks are just for Orange, Riverside, and San Bernadino counties.

    As for the Devils, they’re the unsightly ugly little brother kept in the closet in the New York City market. New Yorkers love their Rangers and Islanders, but they hate New Jersey with a passion.

  • Bob

    Flyover country gets its revenge. Greenblatt and rest of the bigwigs get shown up for the complete a$$holes they are. Ha Ha Ha. CBS NCAA Final Four. NBC Stanley Cup. Once again proving people rise to their level of incompetence.

  • kyle

    It’s really sad, Hockey is great and watching Quick in goal for the Kings has been a great watch.

  • Alex

    UFC pulled about the same ratings with one of their weaker headlining cards on FOX.

    FOX spent much less on UFC than NBC spent on NHL deal.

  • Matt

    OK for one…

    – the DEVILS are a big-market team, not the same fan support as the Rangers, but are well liked in the area. The Islanders for one have basically ZERO fan support in NY or NJ, so the Devils place second in that market, not third.

    -this series is one-sided, and the devils are not playing well, so the ratings here are not great because people are turning the channel.

  • Nathan

    Need to add Canada ratings from US cities. I live outside Detroit and I get NBCSN on a sports mix channel 1/10th of the screen but I get CBC in HD. I watched it on NBC when it was on that but many people don’t they just prefer the better channel.

  • David Howell

    NBC can’t even catch a break with sports anymore.

  • D

    a couple comments..

    1) NBC is really blowing this. How on earth do you not put the LA games on NBC? Just a really stupid decision

    2) Its funny how some of you dont think the Kings have a strong following here in LA. They sell out virtually every game and have a very solid and passionate following.

    3) We dont see ice in LA? you do know that LA is ringed by 12,000 foot mountains right? Most of the residents are 30 – 45 minutes away from being in a forest full of snow during the winter and not to mention that it does in fact get cold in LA during the winter

    4) there are numerous hockey leagues in the LA area, and in fact, an LA team just won the most prestigious amateur tournament in Canada.

    all that said, GO KINGS GO!

  • CordCutter

    For all those complaining you don’t get NBCSN or ‘why aren’t the games on NBC’ its because you DON’T get NBCSN in your basic service tier. They are banking on you complaining to your cable/sat company and getting it added to the basic channel lineup ala ESPN/2. Why sign the NHL deal and put everything on free OTA NBC? The entire point of that deal was to bolster their programming on NBCSN and hopefully lay the foundation for what will one day be an ESPN competitor.

  • Mark Phillips

    When the NHL got greedy and expanded into places like Florida, Phoenix, LA, Dallas and Atlanta, it was in trouble. Atlanta plain didn’t make it. The attendance in general at games in these cities in most years has been pitiful and without tax incentives and owners who need the writeoffs, these other southern teams would go the Atlanta route. Raised in Buffalo, where the majority of the games are sold out, I attended a Sabres game in Tampa this season where the majority of the crowd was surprisingly rooting against Tampa as the crowd was full of Buffalo vacationers.
    Hockey in June is a bad idea. Look at the poor ratings for the small markets 2007 Ducks/Senators series. Without northern big market teams, NBC can’t expect much.

  • E

    The biggest problem the Stanley Cup finals have is that most of the series is played in June. Only the hardcore hockey fan will be interested in watching in June. The finals should be the end of May, or early June the latest. I know the concern is that NBC would not televise any games in prime time during sweeps, but, have the first 2 games on the cable channel. This year, they could have started the series on Tuesday, May 22. Here is how the schedule would look. Games 1 (5/22) and game 2 (5/24) would be on NBC sports network. Games 3 (5/26), Game 4 (5/28), Game 5 (5/30), Game 6 (6/2), and Game 7 (6/4) would be on NBC. Everything would be over by now. Ratings wuold be much better as sports fans would be more inclined to tune in to the beginning of the series.

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