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Cable Drops the Puck With Lowest Stanley Cup Clincher in 30 Years

  • Game 5 of the SCF averaged 2.72 million viewers on TNT and TruTV, the least watched Game 5 since 1994.
  • Warner Bros. Discovery has not streamed NHL games on Max, but that could change if cable numbers don’t improve..
The last time a Game 5 drew viewership this low was the last time a Game 5 aired on cable in 1994.
Mandatory Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
Front Office Sports Today

Could Promotion-Relegation work in College Football?

The proposal aims to create an exciting media product while reducing travel for non-football sports.
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September 21, 2023 | Podcast
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The Vegas Golden Knights’ Cup 9-3 blowout win over the Florida Panthers in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Tuesday night was the least-watched Cup-clinching game in 30 years.

Cable broadcasts on TNT and TruTV averaged 2.72 million viewers, which also marks the smallest audience for a Game 5 of the Cup Final in 29 years, according to Nielsen data collected by Sports Media Watch. Only the 1994 Stanley Cup on ESPN had a lower Game 5 audience, which was incidentally the last Final shown entirely on cable before this year.

Last year’s six-game Stanley Cup Final on ABC averaged 4.6 million viewers. None of this year’s Final games on TNT/TBS/TruTV reached that figure—with this year’s highest average Cup Final audience coming in Game 1 at 2.8 million viewers. 

The NHL signed seven-year deals with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery that both expire at the end of the 2027-28 season. Disney’s over-the-air ABC network will have the Final in even years (2022, 2024, and 2026), while WBD Sports gets the Final in odd years (2023, 2025, and 2027) on cable’s TNT with simulcasts on TBS and TruTV. 

WBD Sports secured rights to put NHL games on HBO Max (now called Max) as part of its NHL rights deal but has yet to put games on the streaming service. Given this year’s downward numbers on cable, executives could be driven to simulcast future games on the popular streaming service. 

“I think at this point, fans and viewers know how to get the games,” WBD Sports EVP and CCO Craig Barry told FOS before the series. “With the fragmentation of media and content platforms, whether that’s broadcast cable or direct-to-consumer, more and more sports are becoming more platform-agnostic.”

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