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.

  • Rishi

    I’m guessing part of the reason is b/c the games started at 5pm local time for the LA market.

  • The Stew

    You know what, you basketball fans can suck it.

    I’m Canadian, and I’m despite popular belief, I’m proud that interest has grown in the U.S.

    Basketball is nothing but a bunch of tall weirdos jumping at a girly basket. And hockey (while the fights are interesting), has more than just the fights, players actually must be agile and quick on the puck to score on a net, that is “actually” guarded. Do you see any goaltenders for basketball? No.

    Torrid, you or any of your retarded basketball fans better not come to Canada, or else things are going to get really messy around here.

    Peace out, Canadian and American hockey fans.
    Death to Basketball.

  • The Stew

    And one more thing,

    Almost every American with cable has TNT or ESPN.
    While NBC Sports Network doesn’t have many subscribers.
    1.74M and 2.07M for Game 3 and 4 respectively, on a channel which gets less than 100k per average program.
    Even with disappointing NBC ratings for Game 1 and 2.

    Imagine if the channels were switched.
    Who’d be superior?

  • browny

    LA: A few die hard fans (true hockey fans) who have been waiting for their team to win for 10 years. Sadly most Kings “fans” are simply bandwagoners.

    NJ: Most people didnt know they had a team until the Stanley Cup. Lack of supporters and highly lacking a good number of true fans.

    What do you expect when you get these two teams to the final game….. not hard to see why such low numbers. Doesnt help 4 of the games were boring to watch with little spark, little team hatred and some soft play. As a massive hockey fan…. it was one of the least interesting stanley cup playoffs ive ever watched.

  • TomKH

    The best match up ratings-wise is Detroit/Boston. If that ever happens and if there’s a game 7 it would probably be the most watched NHL game ever.

    In the early 70s the NHL would get even better viewership with double the ratings, what changed that? Did the back-to-back-to-back Habs, Islanders amd Oilers dynasties killed interest?

  • The Real Original Ray


    While many of your points are correct and appropriate in the context of this website, your argument does not consider a broader perspective.

    Television, particularly national television, is not the only measure of success. The difference in revenue between the two leagues is $3.8 billion for the NBA and $3.3 billion for the NHL. When you consider how much of a niche and regional sport the NHL is, and the vast gap in the promotion of stars between the two sports and coverage on sports news stations such as ESPN, it is actually a pathetic monetary performance by the NBA, comparatively. Hockey has a small and loyal audience that supports its sport with the thing that matters most to the providers – money.

    Hockey is horrible on television. It is said that HD has improved the TV experience of a hockey game more than the other sports and that is true but for much of the play all this means is that you can’t see the puck in a much sharper way. Combine this with the regional appeal and it becomes obvious why the national television numbers are so low.

    Finally, I don’t know any hockey fans who care whether or not the sport is third or fourth. It’s annoying when others who know nothing about the game pretend to speak with authority about it (I’m not including you in this) but otherwise we’re having too much fun watching to bother comparing ourselves to others. We get that you don’t get it and that’s ok.

  • Illhaveanother

    Hockey isn’t growing. If it is it is at a very very slow rate. Where is the comparison? NBA is miles ahead of NHL

  • tom


    Racial component true just like with NBA.I am very certain minorities of color don’t watch hockey.TV Ratings for the NBA from Minorities are ten fold and most cant afford to go to NBA game.Your sport is overrated push by MTV,Hip Hop also white kids like you who { wants } to be Black,echo that of Simon cowell.Here is a fact NBA highlights its all slam dunking.Fact rule out slam dunking Ratings will plummet.

    Jealous I don’t think so.Been around NHL message boards most troll replies are typed by Basketball punks I am sorry WHITE basketball punks like you.You do imitate NBA players that is Flapping at the mouth,Loud,and the Attiude of ME ME ME.

  • lancelot48

    Hockey is an expensive game for the youngsters to play and, with the state of the economy in the States, not for everyone. Basketball attracts everyone. Its a more ghetto suited game and, since the US has per capita the most ghettos its a way out.

  • The Real Original Ray


    What are your numbers?


    As the attention paid to football concussions increases, and as that spills over into hockey, which also has a concussion problem, I think there’s a good chance that fewer kids are allowed to play. On the other hand, though I haven’t seen any numbers that talk about it in the context of the economic crisis, I’ve seen figures that show a considerable increase in the number of kids (and grownups) playing hockey in the U.S.

  • E

    The biggest problem with the Stanley Cup finals is the fact that they are played in June. Unless you are a hardcore hockey fan, you are not watching hockey in June. The high profile teams may bring a little better ratings, however, the finals need to be played at the end of May to generate more interest for the casual fan. No ones thinking about hockey in June.

  • tv log

    NBC fouled it greatest chance having Number one market versus Number 2 market! Yes New Jersey isn’t New York! But it in New York City Suburbs! NBC advertised Super Bowl! Why we need know Tom Brady on New England Patriots and Eli Manning on New York Giants! NBC! Remember Jason Kidd leading New Jersey Net against Shag and Kobe and Lakers in 2002 NBA Finals! Man! NBC is reason of low numbers! New Jersey Players defeated New York Rangers! Who are players on New Jersey Devils! Since Claude Lemieux had retired! I didn’t pay attention on New Jersey Devils’ roster! NBC! Broadcast NHL All Star Game! No matter it faces NFL Pro Bowl! Besides NFL Super Bowl bound players are not playing in Pro Bowl!

  • David

    I couldn’t watch a basketball game if you paid me. It boars me to tears. This year’s NHL finals was really exciting when NJ won 2 in a row and made a series of it but last year’s Boston vs Vancouver was epic.

  • Byah Nuts

    Buffalo killed in the TV ratings, as usual.

    Game 1:
    1. Buffalo – 7.8/12
    2. New York – 5.1/8
    t3. Los Angeles – 4.2/8
    t3. Minneapolis/St. Paul – 4.2/8
    t5. Pittsburgh – 3.5/6
    t5. Oklahoma City – 3.5/5

    Game 6:
    1. Los Angeles – 13.6
    2. Buffalo – 7.9
    3. Pittsburgh – 7.2
    4. Las Vegas – 6.7
    5. Detroit – 5.4

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