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.

  • CJ

    @Cody – LA is the biggest bandwagon city in sports, they’re paying attention. Unfortunately, most people are not getting home until the game is halfway over because of the start time; no one wants to watch a game that’s nearly over by the time you’re settled in to watch.

    I agree with the person who said it’d be interesting to get the numbers for drive time listening and Kings games.

  • Joseph

    I suspect that many of the big-name Hollywood stars who will attend tonight’s (June 6th) potential clinching game in Los Angeles will show-up just to be seen, and that otherwise, they don’t give a s*#@^%t about hockey.

    Sure, such stars as William Shatner, Kurt Russell, and Michael J. Fox are big hockey fans, but I wonder how many other A-listers tonight will be there to be seen and not because they’d genuinely be happy if Jonathan Quick and Company were to wrap-up the championship on home ice and complete the biggest upset in National Hockey League history and the third biggest upset in the history of the entire sport (behind only the U.S. men’s team gold medals at the 1960 and 1980 Winter Olympics).

  • Ryan

    I think the low rating deal with a few things, besides the aforementioned Eastern Conference Finals.

    1. Though it’s been a while, the NHL lockout did put a damper on the ratings.

    2. Putting the Finals on Versus (I know it’s NBC Sports Network, I still call it Versus), gives the impression that the finals are watchable, but not that watchable.

    3. The fact that it’s not “legendary” franchises fighting for the Cup. I’m not knocking on the Devils or the Kings, but the high ratings of previous SCFs were from Original Six squads (DET, CHI, BOS, etc.,)

    4. The Devils and Kings are 6 and 8 seeds, respectively; arguably, there’s no underdog. In the Conference Finals, each team finish in the top three.

    That’s what I think.

  • Michael

    Well, one reason why Game 3 is so poorly rated, is because it is on the NBCSU. Take that away, and the game would have been seen by another million people (including myself) because we don’t GET THAT STATION!! Comcast is a dumb monopoly where I live and don’t like their own company….

    2nd…The LA Kings have not seen any coverage until now! You probably could have asked over HALF the entire vicinity of LA and they’d all be like “Who are the Kings??” Because there is no NETWORK fan base (i.e. NBC doesn’t give two Sh*ts about the Kings) hense there is no attention to them.

    and 3rd….the NJ Devils are well, the devils. They are a ‘loathed’ team in the NHL. The Rangers would have given NBC MONSTER RATINGS!! But, they lost.

    PS: GO KINGS!! I live in NH and well, if you follow hockey…we are the Monarchs, the Kings AHL affiliate…which hopefully will mean that the cup will make an appearance in my neck of the woods…which is 2nd to only seeing it when Boston won it all last year :D

  • steve

    The whole set-up is super lame. I’m a New Yorker who’d like to watch game 4 tonight. The NHL should be desperate to get the Stanley Cup on real TV, not some never-heard-of NBC also ran channel nobody gets. Both partners here deserve their failure. Better to follow college hockey anyway.

  • Matt

    Meh, it’s just a bad year. LA is dominating NJ, which is a poor draw anyways.

    The NHL did an absolutely awful job of scheduling the series, (8 days off for LA, four for NJ) two day breaks in the series TWICE.

    The series, for me, and several other people that I’ve talked to, has no rooting interest. I don’t care who wins it.

    There’s been zero physicality, which makes it seem like the teams aren’t even that into it.

    All in all a down year. Should bounce back.

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