Ratings Predictions For a Rematch

This is likely one of the most difficult Stanley Cup Finals to predict ratings-wise since the lockout at least.  On one hand, the NHL is putting Games 1 & 2 of the Finals on network TV for the first time in decades (While Game 1 has aired on National TV, Game 2 hasn’t in ages) while Games 3 & 4 are on cable.  However, the NHL is seeing record ratings over at VERSUS, and its’ most successful post-season since 1997, ratings-wise.  

The NHL has as made-for-TV a matchup as you can get, featuring two teams that drew the highest average ratings for a Stanley Cup Final since 2002, and who’s Game 6 last year drew the highest single-game NHL rating since 2003.  However, the NHL has been squeezed into a somewhat unfavorable schedule with its’ network partner NBC, which has Game 1 airing on the low-rated Saturday and Game 7 airing on the slightly-less low-rated Friday.

We’re going to ignore the NBA stuff, because it’s pretty clear that the fanbases don’t overlap much.  Wings-Hawks drew 2.3 million on VERSUS Wednesday while Game 5 of the Lakers-Nuggets series drew 9.9 million on ESPN.  The NHL is going to draw what it is going to draw, and the NBA isn’t really a factor into that equation.  However, a Magic-Nuggets Final would be really helpful for the league, buzz-wise.

So with that all said, let’s go game by game and predict what the ratings will be for the Stanley Cup Finals

Game 1, Saturday May 30th at 8 PM ET (NBC)

Competition: Reality reruns and a new episode of Pushing Daisies on ABC, reruns and a new Harper’s Island on CBS, and FOX’s Cops/America’s Most Wanted duo, in addition to Game 6 of Magic/Cavs on TNT.

The Story: Saturdays are typically the lowest-rated nights of any Stanley Cup Finals, regardless of what sequence the games are in.  For example, Game 3 of last year’s series went from  4.5 Million viewers on a Wednesday to 4.3 million on a Saturday for Game 4, which makes no sense unless you consider that Saturday is the lowest-rated night on network TV.  For that reason, this will be the lowest-rated game of the series on NBC.

The Number: 3.8 Million Viewers.

Game 2, Sunday May 31st at 7PM ET or 8PM ET (NBC)

The Competition: Game 7 of Nuggets/Lakers or reruns on ABC, 60 Minutes, Password and reruns on CBS, and repeats of animated sitcoms on FOX.

The Story: While we do agree that the NBA and NHL have separate audiences, having no Game 7 of Nuggets/Lakers to deal with would be huge for the league, because it would likely take a lot of sports fans who were looking forward to having a game to watch Sunday night.  It’ll do much better than Game 1 either way, but I’ll list two ratings.

The Number: 4.4 Million at 7PM ET, 5 Million at 8PM ET.

Game 3, Tuesday June 2nd at 8 PM ET (VERSUS)

The Competition: None from the NBA, while ABC airs Abortion to Jim (zing) and specials, CBS has reruns, FOX has reruns of House and a new Mental.

The Story: Look, we all know VERSUS isn’t going to draw as big a number as broadcast.  Some people will laugh at it.  But, as Sam Flood said, there’s no reason for VERSUS not to draw record numbers for these two games.

The Number: 2.8 Million Viewers.

Game 4, Thursday June 4th at 8PM ET (VERSUS)

The Competition: Game 1 of the NBA Finals on ABC, all reruns on CBS, new So You Think You Can Dance on FOX.

The Story: This is where the point we made about the NBA and NHL not sharing audiences comes into play.  When it deals with VERSUS, the NHL is pretty much it’s own separate entity, and will have to count on it’s own fans showing up to watch.  That said, we’re gonna be bold and predict VERSUS tops 3 Million for Game 4.

The Ratings: 3.2 Million Viewers.

Game 5, Saturday June 6th at 8PM ET (NBC)

The Competition: Nothing from the NBA, while it’ll just be repeats and burn-offs on other networks.

The Story: Again, the NHL hurts itself by airing another game on Saturday.  It’ll likely go higher than Game 1’s numbers, but it won’t top Game 2.

The Number: 4.3 Million Viewers.

Game 6, Tuesday June 8th at 8PM ET (NBC)

The Competition: Game 3 of the NBA Finals on ABC.

The Story: Okay, here’s the biggest NHL mess-up of the scheduling in this series.  NBC has had it’s Conan debut week, can we please air this game on freakin’ Monday?  This was a bit of a bumbler.  That said, Game 6 will draw the best numbers of the series.

The Numbers: 5.2 Million Viewers.

Game 7, Friday June 11th at 8PM ET (NBC)

The Competition: Reruns.

The Story: Everyone loves a Game 7.  The game would likely draw a 50 rating in Pittsburgh and a 40 rating in Detroit.  It will draw casual fans.  It will be the biggest NHL game of the decade ratings wise, despite being on a Friday.  It will be on NBC an it’ll own much of the sports bar coverage.  This could be a massive breakthrough for the league.

The Number: 8.0 Million Viewers.

Overall, the NHL is looking at an average a 4.6 Million Viewers for this final.  Not likely the breakthrough increase they wanted, but what they deserve for the insanity of their scheduling.

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About stevelepore
Steve Lepore is the Managing Editor of Puck the Media. His work has been featured in The Hockey News. Feel free to contact him at stevemlepore@gmail.com

10 Responses to Ratings Predictions For a Rematch

  1. Tom says:

    I wish the TV numbers included Canada.
    The CUp numbers with that added will kill the NBA

    • Chris says:

      I think your numbers are low.

      by 20 percent on NBC..

      and I bet you versus does 3.5 mil for each game..maybe 4.

      Game 6 last year had 6.8 million.

      why on earth would it drop that much?

      no…Canada will average 3-4 million per game through the series..the nhl may average 8-10 per game total.

      the nba if the lakers or cavs make it will be at 15 mil+

    • dyhrdmet says:

      don’t forget about the CBC factor in Detroit. You think Wings/Hockey fans in Michigan are going to watch NBC and look for Versus, or find their local CBC station?

      The NBA will be a factor on head-to-head nights (there’s always one or two, just not the NBA Finals), and so will the nights Versus has games.

  2. Sean says:

    I have one HUGE question…why the heck would a Game 7 be on a Friday night?!? Wouldn’t Monday/Wednesday be the way to go there to avoid the NBA Finals? NBC is just dumb, dumb, dumb at this point with everything. No wonder they’re in last place and sometimes even behind Univision.

    I also think Versus does even bigger numbers for Games 3 & 4, especially if they split the first 2 games. If anything, all the scheduling snafus have been free pub for the league, especially Versus. I’ve read more about this year’s Stanley Cup final schedule than anything related to a sports schedule in my entire life.

  3. kevin says:

    The number in Canada are paltry. 4+ million in Canada would be a huge number. There will be more viewers in the USA in total….. I think Versus will do almost 3 million for both games. For NBC I would say at least 4 million for game 1….maybe 6 million for game 2….game 5 maybe 5 million amd game six 6-7 million if its a good series. Game 7 on a Friday won’t do better than 6 million which would be a shame but that’s what you get for a Friday.

  4. kevin says:

    The sad thing is this would easily have been the best rated Final ever if they didn’t totally screw up the scheduling….thanks to Canon O’Brien…whatever his name is

  5. jkrdevil says:

    I’m not sure why they are going Tuesday-Friday for game 6 and 7. In the past on NBC they have gone Monday, Wednesday. My guess the NHL wanted a 2 day break some where to make up for the back to backs and NBC didn’t want to give up a Thursday (their only good night of TV). Thus you get what it is.

    • Sean says:

      That would make sense if everything wasn’t in repeats. And their comedy repeats last night (according to TVByTheNumbers) were averaging about 3.5 million viewers. The Stanley Cup Final, especially this one, would crush that.

      NBC = stupid.

  6. kevin says:

    It’s all about Conon O’Brian….his show starts June 1st and NBC didn’t want any OT games impacting his 11:30 start time. That’s why they wanted Sat/Sun games for 1 and 2 then next Sat. I’m sure NBC is hoping it ends in 5 games…The stupid thing is how many people watch late nite TV….maybe a couple million at most. I guess they are worried that those million people will watch Letterman if Conon isn’t on instead and they’ll be gone for good

  7. Dan says:

    Maybe so, but late night probably gets most of its audience from the 18-34 demographic, which of course is king. As such, I’d think it is one of the networks’ most profitable slots outside of morning news (even though Leno/Letterman/Conan etc. make very nice salaries).

    And if the audience is a few million, which it could be given the hype for Tonight’s transition, that would not be much less than the SCF can get for NBC at this stage.

    Game 7 though would get hurt in some of the big markets as that is interleague rivalry weekend in MLB (including Yankees-Mets).

    Overall, I do think your predictions are pretty good, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the numbers came in 5-10% lower than that.

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