NBC Sports is seeing stronger ratings this year for coverage of hockey’s Stanley Cup playoffs, with Wednesday night’s deciding game in the series between Chicago and Detroit setting a record for a conference semifinal.
Nielsen estimates that the Blackhawks’ 2-1 overtime victory over the Red Wings in the seventh game of the Western Conference semifinals averaged 3.35 million viewers on NBC Sports Network, with viewership peaking at 4.61 million viewers from 10:30 to 10:45 p.m. ET.
This is double the audience that tuned in for last year’s seventh game in the Eastern Conference semis between Washington and the New York Rangers (1.68 million) and the most-watched conference semifinal game ever on cable (data going back to 1994).
Tuesday’s seventh game in the other Western semifinal, between Los Angeles and San Jose, averaged 1.37 million viewers. Though, the L.A. Kings are the defending Stanley Cup champions, they aren’t anywhere near as popular nationally as the Red Wings and Blackhawks.
The Kings’ 2-1 victory on Tuesday drew the largest audience for a Western Conference semifinal that didn’t involve either Chicago or Detroit since 2001.
The 24 semifinal games on NBC, NBC Sports Network and CNBC combined to average 1.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched conference semifinals ever across broadcast and cable (records go back to 1994).
NBC has been blessed with some great matchups for its conference finals. Action kicks off with a doubleheader on Saturday, with Chicago taking on Los Angeles in the West on NBC Sports Network, followed by the first game between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins in the East on NBC in primetime.