The decision to put every game of this year’s Stanley Cup Final on broadcast television has already paid off in the ratings.
Monday’s Avalanche-Lightning Stanley Cup Final Game 3 averaged a 2.2 rating and 4.10 million viewers on ABC, the largest audience for the third game of the Cup Final in 20 years (Red Wings-Hurricanes: 5.48M). Keep in mind it was just the second time Game 3 on broadcast television in the past 14.
Tampa Bay’s blowout win jumped 83% in ratings and 65% in viewership from last year’s Lightning-Canadiens Game 3 on NBC, which aired on the Friday of July 4 weekend (1.2, 2.48M), and 40% in both measures from Bruins-Blues on NBCSN in 2019 (1.6, 2.93M).
Game 2 on Saturday averaged a 1.7 and 3.75 million, the largest audience for the second game of the Cup Final since the previous one on broadcast television — Blackhawks-Lightning on NBC immediately following American Pharoah’s Triple Crown-clinching Belmont Stakes run in 2015 (6.55M).
Colorado’s blowout win jumped 93% in ratings and 122% in viewership from Canadiens-Lightning on NBCSN last year (0.9, 1.69M). Compared to Blues-Bruins Game 2 on NBCSN in 2019, ratings fell 13% (from 1.95) but viewership jumped 11% (from 3.39M), a disparity that can be explained by the fact that out-of-home viewing was not tracked in 2019 or prior years.
This year marks the first time on record that the entire Stanley Cup Final will air on U.S. broadcast television. The common practice in prior years was for at least two games to air on cable, typically Games 2 and 3. Despite the back-to-back multi-year highs, neither Game 2 nor Game 3 averaged as many viewers as last Wednesday’s series-opener (4.20M).
The first three games of the Cup Final rank as the most-watched NHL games since the league returned from hiatus nearly two years ago, each surpassing the previous high of 3.56 million for last year’s Game 5 clincher. Take out the past two years, and the first three games rank as the least-watched Cup Final games on broadcast television since Sharks-Penguins Game 1 in 2016 (4.08M).
As one would expect in the current television era, Games 2 and 3 were easily television’s top rated shows in the key adult demographics on their respective nights. Game 2 had a 1.1 in adults 18-49, a 0.9 in 18-34 and a 1.3 in 25-54; Game 3 drew a 1.2, 0.9 and 1.5 respectively.
The games also ranked as television’s most-watched primetime shows, though Game 2 actually averaged fewer viewers than ABC’s “World News Tonight” earlier in the evening (4.55M).