Boosted in part by strong synergistic interest in New York, NBC Sports generated impressive viewership numbers on Saturday for its back-to-back coverage of horse racing’s Belmont Stakes and hockey’s Stanley Cup Final.
The Belmont, held annually in New York, drew its second largest audience on record — 20.6 million for the 6:23-7:15 p.m. ET window, according to Nielsen — as auds tuned in to see if California Chrome could become the first horse in decades to win the Triple Crown. It fell short (placing fourth), but the heightened interest in the race drew helped bring nearly three times as many viewers as last year (7.0 million).
NBC drew a whopping 57% more viewers for its coverage of the race than ABC did in 2008 for the last time a horse was in position for the Triple Crown (13.1 million). Since the Nielsen People Meter era began in 1988, the only other Belmont Stakes to draw a larger audience was the 2004 edition in which Smarty Jones was in position to win the Triple Crown (21.9 million).
Louisville was the highest-rated of the 56 metered Nielsen markets, with a 21.1 household rating/38 share, but the largest audience for the race came from New York, whose 15.8 rating/37 share (roughly 2.2 million homes) was the second-highest ever in the market behind only Smarty Jones’ attempt in 2004 (20.5/38).
In adults 18-49, the Belmont Stakes did a 4.0 rating, the highest since the 2004 race, and tied the 2003 Belmont as the second-highest in People Meter history.
NBC was able to capitalize on the big Belmont Stakes audience by immediately following its coverage with Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final between the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings.
According to Nielsen, the Kings’ double-overtime victory in Los Angeles averaged roughly 6.4 million viewers, making it the most-watched Game 2 on record (since at least 1994). The game was up 60% vs. last year’s Game 2 on NBCSN (Bruins-Blackhawks, 4.0 million), and up 121% vs. 2012’s Game 2 on NBC that also featured the Kings (Kings-Devils, 2.9 million).
NBC dominated primetime, beating its combined ABC-CBS-Fox competition in key demos while also winning in total viewers. The game peaked in the final quarter-hour (11:30-11:45 p.m. ET) with 7.6 million viewers.
The New York market generated a 10.5 overnight household rating, according to Nielsen, the highest-rated NHL game ever on NBC or NBCSN in the market, and up from a 10.1 for Wednesday’s Game 1, which was the previous record. Los Angeles scored a 8.9 fousehold rating, the second-highest such game ever in Los Angeles, behind only the 2012 Stanley Cup Final Game 6 (13.6), which was when the Kings clinched their first-ever championship. L.A. did a 7.1 rating for Game 1.
The days events also scored record numbers online.
According to Adobe Analytics, fans live-streamed 6.8 million minutes of the Belmont Stakes on NBC Sports Live Extra — the NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, and tablets — a record for any horse race streamed by NBC Sports Digital. Coverage included an isolation camera on California Chrome, bonus analysis from NBC Sports commentators, and replays and footage from the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. The Belmont Stakes was watched by 389,680 unique viewers.
And Saturday’s hockey game delivered 9.0 million minutes of live streaming on NBC Sports Live Extra, the most ever for an NHL game, according to Adobe Analytics. It surpassed last year’s Stanley Cup Final triple-overtime Game 1, which produced 8.9 million minutes of consumption. Game 2 was watched by 219,677 unique viewers.