2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final Scores 3rd Lowest TV Viewership In At Least 17 Years

Categories: TV Ratings Reference,TV Sports Ratings & News

Written By

June 12th, 2012

The 2012 Stanley Cup Final between the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils drew the third lowest TV viewership average since at least 1995 (perhaps earlier, I lack the data). Our polled readers turned out to have been too optimistic.

While I can't do any better with the information I have than calculate a ballpark average of 2.99 million viewers, that's the third lowest average viewership since 1995. I'm assuming that NBCU will have a press release we'll post on the site soon with the actual averages (which take into account the duration of each game, which my ballpark average does not).

Update: My ballpark average was pretty close, the series averaged 3.01 million viewers.

After game 4, I thought it was a longshot that the 2012 SCF could make it to even the third lowest, but the viewership for game 6 surprised me to the upside.

What went wrong?
  • Because of the strike compressed NBA season, the first four Stanley Cup Final matches went 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.

  • Charlie Sheen

    I’d have to say this year Stanley Cup Finals are a moderate success because the lowest turnouts were back in 2005 and 2006.

    The NBCSN numbers for Game 3 and 4 were really good.

    Unfortunately the Stanley Cup Finals had to go against NBA every night until Game 6 since the NBA season got a late start this year.

    I would’ve loved to have seen what this series could’ve done if there was a Game 7 or if the Rangers had made it instead of the Devils.

  • kyle

    Seeing how bad these playoffs and finals were, I’d call those numbers deserved

  • Illhaveanother

    Good number for game 6. The L.A. market finally tuned in

  • TatiG

    Defense, no talent on either team. It was about who can hit the other. In the end, the no 8 seed was matched with no. 6 seed.

    I would have loved to see the Canucks vs. (Rangers/Bruins/Pitts)

    This is the problem with the NHL. So volatile that the best players are actually watching at home, while the biggest less talented of them are showcasing the cup.

    This is where the NBA got it right. Eastern Conference Finals was most viewed game on Cable because it was opposing the Star, LeBron vs. a talented Celtics team.

    The NBA Finals will be even better. 2 athletic team with talent.

    Go Canucks ;)

  • D

    No talent? obviously a Canucks fan would think the Kings have no talent. We whopped your ass bad. get a life hater.

    Btw, is there a breakdown of the local markets? i heard on the radio that the LA market hit 22.2 / 35 share, which was much higher than what Boston or Miami did locally for their NBA game 7’s.

  • Nick

    The only way the NHL finals will ever score big again is if the Red Wings are in them.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    “Btw, is there a breakdown of the local markets?”

    We may get local market numbers in an NBC press release.

  • Chris

    If I had to guess between your two choices I would go with the first one: “Because of the strike compressed NBA season, the first four Stanley Cup Final matches went head to head with NBA Conference Finals games, which would not be the case during a normal NBA season.” The NBA stole a large portion of the potential Stanley Cup audience with those compelling conference finals. While I could see a case-and-point with the second possibility, I really think that the city of Los Angeles passionately supports its teams and the sudden success of the Kings caused people there to go wild. New Jersey, on the other hand, only has fans on the New Jersey side of the New York market, whose population is far less than in New York City. Seems like the Devils must’ve been lost in the shadow of the Rangers. In fact, there has been not one mention of the Devils in the New York media. That or, write back and tell me if you like this joke, Bill Gorman: they just didn’t want to support a team whose team name is otherwise synonymous with hell. Ha ha ha!

  • Dan

    Anyone that would say that neither team has any talent clearly has no clue what they’re talking about. Obviously a Canucks fan with sour grapes over the fact that his team got embarrassed in the first round.

    The Devils have arguably the best goalie of all-time in Martin Brodeur, and great offensive players like Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and Patrik Elias. The Kings have probably the best young goalie in the game today, Jonathan Quick, and great young players like Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, and Anze Kopitar.

    The ratings might not have been great, but anyone that actually watched the series knows that it was an entertaining, competitive series. I’m a Devils fan, but I give my props to the Kings, cause they were the better team.

  • torrid

    My work here is done:)

    Stick a fork in that sorry azz turkey called the NHL playoffs – time to watch some basketball finals, must see TV for red blooded americans! :)
    The truth exposed by these NHL playoffs are:
    – Hockey is not american and most americans know it
    – Hockey holds no interest for the vast majority of us after 90 years of trying to gain our attention
    – Hockey-love in america is either a regional and/or racial phenomenon that does not translate to national entertainment
    – Disinterest in hockey is increasing rather than decreasing in our country
    – The great expectations generated among hockey fans after that NBC deal have been smashed as the reality of hockey’s lack of cachet among regular US sports fans sink in
    – The NBA is not only far more accepted, followed and watched than hockey BUT the gap between the sports is growing rapidly as the NBA leverages it’s great ‘everyman’ appeal inside the USA and internationally

    It’s been real hockey fans :) – I leave you to stew in your impotent jealousy and misery as the NBA embarks on a historic Finals series that will launch a new MJ like era for this great sport. SEE YA SUCKERS!!!

    Torrid out! :)

  • TatiG

    Torrid, have you considered a career in documentary production? ;)

  • torrid

    @TatiG – who says I’m not doing something similar already ;)

  • Theoacme

    @Torrid: Hockey is not american and most americans know it.

    First, Torrid, you are un-American, for spelling “American” uncapitalized, so off to Pelican Bay SHU with you!

    Second, a lot of people hate the NBA, preferring the better quality fixing, and the better player and management morals, of the WWE – or, another way of saying this, David Stern is today’s Vince McMahon.

    And third, given NBC’s alternatives of programming, you would rather watch Jay Leno in prime time again, or more Harry’s Law, or more Rock Center? ~giggles~ (are you N-V-T-S?) Not even NBC is that stupid…

  • Barbarossa

    Oh Torrid, I will miss you until next year. But,still 1 down year does not make a trend. I’m not saying that the NHL will magically match the NBA next year or anything, but I am very curious as to what you’ll say withe next year results in some better match-ups.

  • JustTunedIn

    Maybe hockey fans just prefer watching in the pubs and NBA and NHL fans prefer watching at home. :) Does that factor into Neilsen?

    (I’m being tongue-in-cheek; I realize the differences in viewership are way more than could be accounted for by that).

  • Ryan Stoppable

    While its TV ratings are lower, based on the figures on the ESPN web site, the NHL had a higher league wide per-game attendance (17,455) than the NBA did (17,273) in 2011-12.

  • BenSurgeon

    The hockey season is too long, no real star power in this years SCF and the two teams play a boring style of hockey, thus the low ratings. Why does the NHL play 82 games when half of them are meaningless? I did not watch any games after the first round when all the big teams got eliminated. My opinion on why the low ratings.

  • Kata

    Great series. Great game. And the best thing about hockey is that the players are still humble and shake hands before and after the game. Too bad many Americans don’t get that fact. Also, I am still waiting for the riots… I guess hockey fans in LA don’t do that. I wonder why?

  • Kata

    Can I pretty please… voice my disgust of the fact that you can’t watch the hockey game unless you have Cable on some nights. Lame ass. Same thing with Lakers and homegames.

  • Daenerys

    @TatiG, please, don’t flatter that Torrid bimbo. Obviously this dope has no idea what they’re saying and their point is meaningless and irrelevant to the bone. I don’t understand the purpose of Torrid’s rant.


    Your team lost. Get over it you sour puss. The finals were amazing this year, and the Kings truly deserved to win. I live in LA, and what I’ve seen these last couple of weeks, I think it’s safe to say that LA is a hockey town again.

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