NBC has been rather lucky with its matchups thus far in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Like, leprechaun wearing horseshoes picking a four-leaf clover lucky.
Some of this is a result of the NHL’s new playoff alignment, but some of it has been the luck of the draw and the way the playoffs have played out. They’ve had major markets battling each other and dramatic series that have gone the distance. Heck, they even managed to contain arguably their two weakest U.S. draws – the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens, whose local ratings don’t factor into the national ones for NBC – in the same first-round series.
So how have the ratings been for NBC and its cable netlings?
Pretty darn good. The second round of the 2014 Playoffs is the most-watched since they started counting these things in 1994. The 25 games that aired on NBCSN and CNBC averaged 1.458 million viewers, which the NHL says is up 2 percent over last season. (Last year’s second round featured two 5-game series in the East and two seven-gamers in the West; this year had three seven-gamers and one six-gamer.)
Overall, the first two rounds rank as the most-watched on cable on record (since 1994). The 65 games have averaged 880,000 combined viewers on NBCSN and CNBC, up 19 percent versus last year (742,000, 63 games). The games on NBC are up 10 percent over last season, averaging 2.141 million viewers.
To help makes heads or tails of these U.S. numbers, we turned to our old pal Steve Lepore of Awful Announcing for some quick ratings questions:
Within context and based on your expectations, have the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs been a ratings success?
The national audiences have been growing, of course, as the first two rounds were the most-watched on cable on record (they started keeping record in 1994). You're also seeing markets like Boston and Chicago and even New York post high ratings, which is a sign that fans are engaged with their teams.
There are still problem spots (The LA market got beaten by Heat-Pacers on Sunday, 6.1 to 2.1 for Kings-Blackhawks) and you'll probably see a bit of a dip for Round 3, because it looks as if one of the two series won't be competitive. But so far, so good.
Has anything surprised you about the numbers? Any series do better than expected?
LEPORE: The appetite for Boston/Montreal remains fascinating to me. Game 7 of that series drew more viewers than either of the other two Games 7 in Round 2, and one of those was New York/Pittsburgh.
On a smaller scale, the numbers for Los Angeles/Anaheim weren't fantastic, but they topped LA/San Jose last year, which is interesting to me, because you're dealing with one market vs. two markets.
Hockey is so regionally driven, but it turns out the national audience was more interested in that series than last year's California series.
If Montreal was to advance against LA or Chicago, will it be like Boston/Vancouver or Anaheim/Ottawa?
Well, you look at what really drove Vancouver/Boston: Recognizable stars and agitation. The Montreal Canadiens have both of those in one package: PK Subban, who might be the most charismatic, intriguing star in the sport.
You have to remember that Original Six trumps everything, and the Canadiens have fans spread across this fine nation, as ratings for their games against the Bruins have shown.
It's gonna be a bit of a struggle against LA, but a Montreal/Chicago series might come close to topping Boston/Chicago in 2013.