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Lack of Game 7 Hurts ABC’s Stanley Cup Final Viewership

  • TV audiences soared from last season’s pandemic delayed Final — but were down 13% from 2019.
  • Lack of dramatic Game 7 hurt overall TV numbers for Avalanche vs. Lightning.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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There’s an unspoken saying in sports media. TV executives don’t root for specific teams in a series; they root for the series to go seven games.

The Colorado Avalanche beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 to win the Stanley Cup. The lack of an all-or-nothing Game 7 might help explain the solid, but far from stellar, TV audiences for the 2022 Stanley Cup Final.

Game 7’s propel viewership and make advertisers happy. ABC’s coverage of the six-game series averaged 4.6 million viewers. 

  • That’s up 84% from last year’s pandemic-delayed five-game Final between the Lightning and Montreal Canadiens. 
  • But down 13% from the 5.3 million average for the St. Louis Blues’ seven-game win over the Boston Bruins in the pre-pandemic days of 2019. 
  • That Game 7 averaged nearly 9 million viewers — making it the most-watched NHL game ever on U.S. airwaves.

The matchup of two relatively “small-market” teams didn’t help either. 

Discounting the last two pandemic-delayed Finals, the Avalanche vs. Lightning ranked as the least-watched Final since the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. San Jose Sharks in 2016 (3.95M) and second-least-watched since the Los Angeles Kings vs. New Jersey Devils in 2012 (3.01M), according to Sports Media Watch.

Still, the NHL and The Walt Disney Co. had plenty to be happy about as hockey broadcasts returned to ABC/ESPN for the first time in 17 years. 

ABC’s telecast of the series-clinching Game 6 on Sunday averaged 5.8 million viewers, making it the most-watched telecast of the day among the advertiser-targeted 18-49 year old audience.

The six-game Final averaged 1.8 million viewers among viewers 18-49. That’s up 99% from last season. All six game telecasts ranked as the most-viewed of their respective days among both total viewers and people 18-49. 

Female viewership for the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs rose 64%. Among females aged 18-49 and 2-17, viewership rose 109% and 90% respectively.

Disney’s coverage of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 1.6 million viewers. That’s up 60% vs all playoff telecasts on cable and broadcast TV last year.

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