Stanley Cup Final Ratings Card Sharks: Higher or Lower Than ’09 Rematch?

Before going on, I’m sure some of you were curious, so I found out: Dan Patrick will host Games 5-7 of the Stanley Cup Final for NBC, if necessary.  He will not be there for Games 1-2.

So after a seemingly interminable layoff, we’ve reached the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, starting tomorrow on NBC here in the states.  My Canadian readers may want to ignore this post, because this one’s for the Yanks.

This season’s Stanley Cup Final is considered not as television friendly as the rematches of the last two seasons.  They say the teams lack star-power and that there won’t be as much viewer interest.  I have to ask anyone thinking this way: What the hell kinda drugs are you on?  Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are two ready-made stars from the Olympics.  Marian Hossa remains familiar with audiences from his unsuccessful attempts to win the Stanley Cup the past two seasons.  Plus, hockey’s greatest villain, Chris Pronger is involved.  There’s plenty of starpower.

As for viewer interest, the NHL is driven by two things: Local ratings and traditional powers.  There’s the potential for the league to draw more local viewers than it did either of the last two season.  The cities of  Chicago and Philadelphia will each draw close to 20.0 ratings for all the games of this series, guaranteeing the NHL at least a million viewers right off the bat, something they couldn’t do with Detroit and Pittsburgh, due to the smaller market Pittsburgh is.  Having two top ten markets is a boost, if anything.

As for tradition, well, where else are you going for tradition.  The Blackhawks are an Original Six team that has gone nearly 50 years without winning.  The Flyers have a tradition so proud that HBO devoted an hour-long documentary to it, and have gone 35 years without winning.  You have everything you want with this series.  In my opinion, it’ll start a tad slow, but I think that the ratings will be potentially a little better than the 4.9 million viewers a game average when you count in the greater familiarity with VERSUS (and don’t forget that Philadelphia and Chicago are two cities where VERSUS has a large penetration level).

Last season, I did predictions in terms of viewers for each game of the Stanley Cup Final, assuming it’d be a seven game series.  I don’t think that’ll happen this year, but I’m going to do that again.  My prediction: Blackhawks in 6.

Let us look at how good my predictions were last year:

Game 1 (NBC)

  • Prediction: 3.8 million viewers
  • Actual Viewership: 4.4 million viewers

Game 2 (NBC)

  • Prediction: 5 million viewers
  • Actual Viewership: 5.4 million viewers

Game 3 (VERSUS)

  • Prediction: 2.8 million viewers
  • Actual Viewership: 3 million viewers

Game 4 (VERSUS)

  • Prediction: 3.2 million viewers
  • Actual Viewership: 3.4 million viewers

Game 5 (NBC)

  • Prediction: 4.3 million viewers
  • Actual Viewership: 4.4 million viewers

Game 6 (NBC)

  • Prediction: 5.2 million viewers
  • Actual Viewership: 5.8 million viewers

Game 7 (NBC)

  • Prediction: 8.0 million viewers
  • Actual Viewership: 8.0 million

So, I was fairly conservative with my picks last season.  I’m going to predict each game, and break down what the game is facing in terms of primetime competition and whether or not the ratings will be higher or lower than last year.  Hence the Card Sharks theme.  Take it with me after the jump:

Game 1:  Saturday, May 29th on NBC

The Competition: Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference Final on TNT, re-run of the Lost finale on ABC, burn-off episodes of cancelled shows on CBS, Cops and America’s Most Wanted on FOX.

The Story: The NBA Conference Finals lasting longer than expected hurts the NHL a bit.  Game 6 of Phoenix-LA will likely beat, and possibly double up Game 1 of our Final.  The numbers will be down a little bit, but expect it to still win the evening among Adults 18-49.

Higher or Lower Than ’09: Lower.  Expect 4.1 million viewers, down from 4.4 million last year.

Game 2, Monday, May 31st on NBC

The Competition: Potentially Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference Final on TNT, The Bachelorette on ABC, reruns on CBS and FOX.

The Story: Hard to tell if the NHL gets a push from airing Game #2 on a Monday instead of a Sunday like it did last year.  If Game 7 of the Lakers-Suns series ends up not happening, expect viewer levels to rise.  It’ll help with everyone coming home from their holiday weekend.

Higher or Lower than ’09: Tentatively a bit higher.  Let there be a day for the buzz from Game #1 to build.  5.2 million viewers.

Game 3: Wednesday, June 2nd on VERSUS

The Competition: So You Think You Can Dance on FOX, Losing it with Jillian Michaels and America’s Got Talent on NBC, reruns on CBS and ABC.

The Story: So here VERSUS joins in the series, and I think there’s still potential for growth, especially when the two markets involved have clearly found VERSUS as accessible as their regional sports networks.  Don’t discount these being two Comcast Sportsnet markets, and the cross-promotion available there.

Higher or Lower Than ’09: Higher.  3.3 million viewers.

Game 4: Friday, June 4th on VERSUS

The Competition: Burn-offs of cancelled shows on CBS and FOX, the Scripps National Spelling Bee on ABC (Oh, good lord please don’t let us lose to that), our old nemesis: the Women’s College World Series on ESPN.

The Story: Hard to say if VERSUS is bummed about the Friday night start for Game 4 vs. a Thursday night start for the tilt last season.  Depending on the markets, viewer levels don’t seem to really matter when it comes to nights.

Higher or Lower Than ’09: Even with last year, 3.4 million viewers.

Game 5: Sunday, June 6th on NBC

The Competition: Sunday Night Baseball: Milwaukee vs. St. Louis on ESPN, a George Strait two-hour special on CBS, burn-offs and re-runs on FOX, and the big-dog – the Game #2 of the NBA Final on ABC.

The Story: This is a rough one.  Note that last year’s Game #5 aired on a Saturday, so viewers automatically go up, but how far?  We’re not beating basketball by a long shot, and people who would watch a George Strait special aren’t watching hockey, but can the NHL carve out a piece of the pie?

Higher or Lower Than ’09: Higher due to the Sunday vs. Saturday factor.  I’ll play it conservative and say 5 million even vs. the 4.4 mill for ’09.

Game 6: Wednesday, June 9th on NBC

The Competition: So You Think You Can Dance on FOX, re-runs on ABC and CBS

The Story: Here’s where the NHL picks up steam after two days off.  5.8 million was a season high at the time for the NHL’s Game 6 last season, but it was still down 14% from 2008, which was a Cup clincher.  I think this year’s has a likelier shot at doing the same as ’08, and even if it doesn’t, will eclipse 6 million vs. light competition.

Higher or Lower Than ’09: Higher.  6.2 million viewers.

Game 7: Friday, June 11th on NBC

The Competition: Very little.

The Story: If we get to Game #7, expect close to 30 ratings in Philly and Chicago.  I think they can beat last year’s number of 8 million even for Detroit and Pittsburgh just based on the local markets providing an extra boost…

Higher or Lower Than ’09: …but I’m playing it conservative again and calling it an even 8 million with last year, meaning the series would average 5.0 million viewers, up just a little from last year’s, and marking the third straight year that Final ratings would be trending up.

That said, enjoy the series everyone!

One Response to Stanley Cup Final Ratings Card Sharks: Higher or Lower Than ’09 Rematch?

  1. Sean says:

    The ratings are going to be abysmal Saturday night and not much better Monday night because it’s Memorial Day weekend. That wasn’t the case last year.

    I bet the games on Versus though do a lot better thanks to crazy local viewership. And games 5-7 are just based on how good the series is.

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