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

Categories: 1-Featured,TV Ratings Reference,TV Sports Ratings & News

Written By

June 7th, 2012

After four 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 2.4 million for those four games keeps this year's SCF in the running to fall to the second lowest viewership since 1995.
NBC caught a bit of a ratings break with the Devils win in game 4. They'll get at least one more game on NBC broadcast, and each potentially clinching game typically has better viewership than the preceding one.
However, reaching an average viewership over 2006's 2.834 million is virtually impossible at this point (in round numbers it would require a seven game series with an average of 3.38 million viewers for the final three games).


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.

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.

Yes, this is just an updated version of the June 5 post.

  • Mark H

    That’s still on?? Who knew????

  • Northeast891

    Again, if it was Rangers and Kings it would be 4 million plus each game easily!

  • Matt

    the rangers/kings would not have 4+ million

  • Northeast891

    @Matt, yes they would.

  • Nadine

    yeah but you’re comparing the ratings for BRUINS versus these dog teams. You can’t expect viewership to equal a series with the Boston Bruins in it.

  • Barbarossa


    and Vancouver. Yes the CBC numbers aren’t counted but the ‘Nucks have plenty of american fans, and they are “the Most Hated team in Hockey” so like the heat they had plenty of people watching to see them loose.

    But yeah Central and Northeast teams draw the best, with some Atlantic (NY,PItts) in there

  • TatiG

    it’s June dude. LA people are on the beach… not on the ice.

  • brutony

    The Rangers would have set record ratings-they always have, for the few tims theyve actually PLAYED in the Cup Finals. Esp if it was Rangers/Ducks! And going up against the NBA EVERY night they play doesnt help, either. Now, this weekend, after the Celts finish off the overrated Heat, there should be a few nighta off, so maybe there could be some “heat” off the ice! But all I can say is,,LETS GO RANGERS!

  • Allen


    Less beach and more the fact that LA people couldn’t watch it because NBC didn’t show it.

  • jp


  • Noname_Rex

    Also, hockey, A FREAKING ICE–BASED SPORT, is still being played and broadcasted IN JUNE.

    The season is either too long, or starts too late in my opinion. When it’s June, 99% of the people in the world are NOT thinking about an ICE-based sport. If they held the Stanley Cup Finals in/at the end of February, beginning of March, I actually feel as if they would average at least 4 million viewers……for some reason though.

  • Noname_Rex

    Oh oops. After seeing how high the numbers have been in the past, I’m going to bump up that number from “at least 4 million viewers” to at least 6 or 7.

  • jessica

    In case anyone is curious here are the overnight numbers for the games from Canada.

    CBC gm 1 – Wednesday – 2.129 M
    CBC gm 2 – Saturday – 2.569 M
    CBC gm 3 – Monday – 2.155 M
    CBC gm 4 – Wednesday – n/a at this time
    CBC gm 5 – Saturday – n/a, future date

    And here is what the overnights were for Vancouver v Boston last year:
    CBC gm 1 – Wednesday – 5.640 M
    CBC gm 2 – Saturday – 5.633 M
    CBC gm 3 – Monday – 5.421 M
    CBC gm 4 – Wednesday – 5.348 M
    CBC gm 5 – Friday – 6.105 M
    CBC gm 6 – Monday – 6.639 M
    CBC gm 7 – Wednesday – 8.760 M

    Yeah, that is right… about 1/4 of the country watched game 7 last year. Even with the numbers being overall lower it is still kind of pathetic that two US teams draw a straight-up larger audience in Canada when the population of the metropolitan areas the teams are based in is rather close to the entire population of Canada. But then again last year the US average was lower than the lowest number for any of the games viewed in Canada. Why is it that the NHL is in the US?

  • tatiG


    Are those numbers demo? I mean between 18-49? I know Canada’s population is a little older on avg.

    The US numbers presented here are demo 18-49… The numbers would be higher if no demo.

    I doubt there are that many young people in Canada.

  • RyanCanada

    NHL>>>>>>NFL, and Baseball

  • jessica

    tatiG, look closer at the post and the other comments… you are the first person to mention any demographic other than households or even use the word “demo”.

    Bill even wrote: 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.

    When you write “The US numbers presented here are demo 18-49″ you are entirely, completely, 100% WRONG. On most any other topic you would be correct but not here.

    Comparing total viewers in Canada with total and average viewers in the US is apples and apples. The NHL is not as popular in the US tv market as you appear to think it is.

  • Matt


  • Malleus dentilegorum

    1) Mr. Gorman has it: this season, the SCF was up all the time against NBA-Semifinals.

    2) Devils are ratings’ poison in the Nation’s largest market, yet more so after they just eliminated the Rangers.

    3) Contrary to a hugely popular misconception, despite all the hype, Kings are in NO WAY a big draw in the LA-area.

    4) While lil’ me watched every single second of every game, neither team instill any excitement in other big markets.
    Not even love/hate like a matchup the likes of either Canucks/Red Wings/Blackhawks vs Bruins/Rangers/Flyers or, yes, Penguins would.

    That said: GO PENS!

  • Gary Middleton

    I agree, NoName Rex. Hockey in June is extremely uninteresting.

    jessica, I found this line very compelling: “it is still kind of pathetic that two US teams draw a straight-up larger audience in Canada when the population of the metropolitan areas the teams are based in is rather close to the entire population of Canada.”

    To those who say “apples and oranges” to that, remember that was not a comparison of Canada to U.S. It was a comparison of Canada to the *two metropolitan areas whose teams are in the series*.

  • Gary Middleton

    Malleus, that’s consistent with a lot of the Super Bowl ratings analysis I recall seeing here, where relatively small market teams like Pittsburgh and Green Bay are considered hugely outsized national draws because of history and rivalries and all that.

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