NHL Playoff Ratings See Few Bright Spots In Otherwise Down Year

Even though several games have set high-water marks for recent playoff game viewership, overall ratings for the 2020 NHL postseason are down significantly.

It’s too early to determine the specific causes for the significant dip in ratings, however, with early exits by several of the NHL’s historically big media markets such as Pittsburgh, Boston and Chicago, coupled with the unique circumstances surrounding this years playoffs, it’s not surprising that numbers have tumbled.

According to Sports Media Watch, through Tuesday, the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs averaged 724,000 viewers across NBC Sports’ TV and digital platforms — down 24% from the same point last year (957K). Second round games have averaged 977,000, down 35%. The declines come with the caveat that last year’s average includes two additional games on the NBC broadcast network, one of them a post-Kentucky Derby window that delivered the second-largest NHL audience on record, outside of the Stanley Cup final.

Though down overall, the postseason has drawn some of its largest audiences in the week since play was suspended. Monday’s clinching Game 5 of the Bruins-Lightning series averaged 1.42 million viewers on NBCSN — up 21% from the comparable Monday of last year’s playoffs (Blues-Stars Game 3: 1.18M) and the most-watched NHL game on cable since the season restarted August 1.

The Bruins’ season-ending loss ranks fourth overall regardless of network, with Boston in four of the top seven games. Three of the top seven games have come since play was suspended.

Tuesday’s Islanders-Flyers Game 5 averaged 1.21 million, down 27% from Bruins-Blue Jackets Game 3 last year (1.66M), but the second-most watched game on cable since the restart and 11th regardless of network.

The above numbers also come with a caveat. As of Monday, all Nielsen figures — for all programming — now include out-of-home data.

Western Conference games have not been nearly as strong. Avalanche-Stars Game 5 averaged 689,000 on Monday night and Canucks-Golden Knights 730,000 on Tuesday. The latter declined 32% from Sharks-Avalanche Game 3 in a similar window last year (1.07M).

[Nielsen estimates from NBC Sports, ShowBuzz Daily 9.1, 9.2]

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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8 Responses to NHL Playoff Ratings See Few Bright Spots In Otherwise Down Year

  1. Anonymous says:

    When one starts to mix sports with politics the results are not always good!

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Civil rights is not “politics’.

      • Tim says:

        I know that’s the left wing talking point, but we Americans aren’t blind. We can see the harassment, bullying, assaults, destruction and even murder committed in BLM’s name, and we will make sure any organization who supports them is punished eventually.

      • Anonymous says:

        You avoided the point. Never before have athletes in the major team sports have taken a stand in any sort of controversial subject. Sports tends to be a escape from the real world for people, but major sports have soiled the escape.
        If your escape has been compromised, you find a new escape.

      • Giuseppe says:

        Everything is politics today my friend…Don’t be naive they use you and everybody else to steal elections gain favor secure power…Socialisim and Marxist are on the rise again in the USA.. And using sports to gain a foot hold…..Never gonna happen! Not on my watch!!

  2. Jeff says:

    Lol its not about civil rights look at the data and facts every 4 years there is a stir up of protests. If it was situations like 1960’s-1970’s Southern USA, then absolutely civil rights.
    Armed criminals fighting, resisting, not following instructions while committing a crime or attempting to flee a crime scene is not a civil rights issue. Each one of the incidents riots, looting, violence, murder, arson, initiated by a suspect or wanted criminal resisting arrest/detention or violently attacking the police.

    Even Breonna Taylor was shot after her boyfriend a wanted violent felon fired on the police first. She was also no angel as she was suspected of money laundering, participating in a criminal enterprise, drug dealing, aiding and abetting a fugitive and drug dealer.

    Atlanta Wendy’s incident drunk driving, parol violation, resisting arrest, attempted murder of a police officer.

    Wisconsin incident, known violent felon with weapons crimes, arrest warrant fir sexual assault, resisted arrest from police, fought with police, had a knife in his hand, pulled the taser plugs out, continued reaching into a car for who knows what.

    George Floyd committed a crime, was on a cocktail of drugs including opiods and meth, resisted arrest and had a heart attack.

    Naked spitting man was spitting on officers while resisting arrest during a pandemic which is attempted murder.

    List goes on and on, one thing they all have in common? They all failed to follow instructions, resisted arrest and we committing crimes.

    Dont commit crimes, if caught follow instructions and dont resist, all of those people would be alive and unharmed today.

    Facts Matter!

    • Anonymous says:

      You are clueless. The protests have been solely based in basic civil rights. There has never been mention of right-wing military tactics used to insight riots. It’s not about that.

    • Anonymous says:

      That is an important perspective. However the woken from sleep to intruders is important to the Breana story.

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