According to Sports Media Watch, Monday’s Canadiens-Lightning Stanley Cup Final Game 1 averaged a 0.8 rating and 1.57 million viewers on NBCSN (1.67 million including additional streaming data not tracked by Nielsen), down 25% in ratings and 26% in viewership from Stars-Lightning on NBC last year.
Last year’s Game 1 aired on a college football Saturday in September (1.1, 2.12M), but down 71% and 70% respectively from Blues-Bruins on NBC in 2019, which aired on Memorial Day (2.9, 5.25M).
Monday Sports TV
Clippers-Suns on ESPN: 5.744 million viewers
American Ninja Warrior on NBC: 3.248M
France-Switzerland on ESPN: 1.871M
Canadiens-Lightning on NBCSN: 1.569M
Croatia-Spain on ESPN: 1.101M
Wimbledon on ESPN2: 621,000
College World Series on ESPN2: 385,000
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) June 29, 2021
Tampa Bay’s win, which peaked with 1.78 million viewers, ranks as the lowest rated and least-watched Stanley Cup Final opener since 2007 (Senators-Ducks: 0.5, 769K), with the caveat that all-but-one of the previous games aired on NBC, rather than NBCSN. The last opener to air on NBCSN (then Versus) was Penguins-Red Wings in 2008, which drew a 1.2 and 2.35 million.
From Sports Media Watch:
Compared to last year’s first Stanley Cup Final game on cable, Stars-Lightning Game 2 opposite Monday Night Football, ratings increased 34% (from 0.62) and viewership 38% (from 1.14M). Compared to the first game on cable in 2019, Blues-Bruins Game 2 on a Wednesday night in May, ratings fell 57% (from 1.95) and viewership 54% (from 3.39M).
Game 1 does not rank as the most-watched of the postseason on cable. Last Friday’s Islanders-Lightning semifinal Game 7 averaged 1.92 million on NBCSN, easily the network’s largest NHL audience since 2019. Compared to the previous third round Game 7 in 2018 — Capitals-Lightning — viewership fell 26% from 2.58 million.
The other third round clincher, Golden Knights-Canadiens Game 6 last Thursday, averaged 1.26 million on USA Network.
Entering the Cup Final, the Stanley Cup Playoffs averaged 914,000 viewers across NBC’s TV and digital platforms — up 8% from last year in the “bubble” but down 22% from 2019. Keep in mind the NBC broadcast network aired just nine games entering the Final, two fewer than last year and five fewer than 2019. Including Monday’s Game 1, the postseason is averaging 924,000 viewers (+7%).
This year’s Stanley Cup Final is the first since 2011 to involve a Canadian team. Game 1 of that year’s Bruins-Canucks series drew a 2.7 and 4.56 million on NBC, while the first game on cable — Game 3 — averaged a 1.6 and 2.76 million on Versus. A full list of Stanley Cup Final ratings dating back to 1999 is available here.
Beyond being the first Stanley Cup Final to open on cable since 2008 and the first to feature a Canadian team since 2011, Canadiens-Lightning is the first between Eastern time zone teams since 2009 and, per the Associated Press, the first between traditional Eastern Conference opponents since 1980.
By Jon Sorensen