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Stanley Cup Ratings Steady as NHL Revenue Rebounds on ESPN/ABC Deal

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If at any point you find yourself operating a television network that is leasing the rights to broadcast the Stanley Cup Finals, there are three conditions necessary for the Nielsen dials to hiss:

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1) Try to get one of the Original Six franchises. What’s more, given that neither the Canadiens nor the Maple Leafs have domestic presence in this United States, see what you can do to get the Rangers, Bruins, Blackhawks and/or ” Red Wings in some meaningful way. Since the beginning of the century, the five most viewed NHL The championship series has featured at least one of these four teams, and the best draw in over twenty years was the dream matchup between the Bruins and the Blackhawks in 2013.

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2) Inclusion is good and all, but let’s take the above characterization of two Canadian O6 clubs and extend it to anyone who calls the area north of the 49th parallel home. They have pictures of birds on the money, and it’s weird. Moreover, Canadian teams = ranking death. Aside from the pandemic-hit finals of 2020 and 2021, the three least watched series were those featuring a club hailing from the Great White North. Moreover, in Canada Criminal Codeif you “alarm Her Majesty” or otherwise frighten or put bad vibes on the Queen of England, you must go to prison for 14 years. Whatever you say about America, at least we’re not being bossed around by a 96-year-old woman living in a castle 5,000 miles away.

3) See if you can do something to secure Game 7. In the 21st century, there were seven episodes that reached the limit, which means that one out of every three finals requires a full broadcast list before starting. champion can be crowned. The average attendance for these seven games 7 was 7.31 million viewers, about 70% higher than the average attendance for the first six games of each overloaded series. In 2019, NBC scared 8.91 million viewers of the Blues Bruins final game through its linear TV broadcast and various digital platforms, making it the biggest draw in the NHL in 46 years and the league’s fourth most watched game of all time.

We know that you are probably saying to yourself something along the lines of: “How can I, a purely hypothetical boss of the network, to enforce these conditions?” The truth is that it really your problem, and you wouldn’t be where you are today in this increasingly confusing scenario if it wasn’t for your elite problem-solving abilities. You can think of something. We all believe in you.

As it happens, none of these things played out during this year’s Stanley Cup Finals, an otherwise thrilling and utterly elegant showdown between the long-overdue Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning team that sought to stitch together the pro league’s top three. . – peat from Shaq-Kobe Y2K 2000-02 run. If you missed this, you were in good company; something like 306.9 million people not watch Aws-Bolts, which is a shame. A predictable shame, like August Gloop, who developed type 2 diabetes shortly after he almost died in a candy factory, but a shame nonetheless.

According to Nielsen’s live and same-day data, this year’s Cup Final averaged 4.6 million viewers over six nights, in line with the average turnout over the last 10 title series. In the interests of full disclosure, when we say “last 10” we are referring to the period between 2010 and 2019; the two most recent series are marked with asterisks and therefore do not merit mention in historical records. Last year’s final was held in July and arrived after a shortened 56-game season, while the aborted 2020 campaign ended in September, or a good three months behind the usual deadline. The ratings were terrible, but just getting the games was a big win for everyone involved.

Of those 4.6 million viewers, 1.77 million or 38% were in the 18-49 demo, providing a strong ratio in an increasingly fragmented television environment. (For comparison, the average prime-time entertainment series in 2021-2022 reached an audience where the under-50 group accounted for just 17% of total impressions.)

While good results in a dollar demo are always welcome, the reception of ABC’s first Stanley Cup Final since 2004 was still something of a disappointment. Once the inevitable contradictions of a currency update are ironed out — Nielsen’s 2020 integration of home delivery with its national measurement scheme has led to an endless supply of comparisons of apples to hand grenades — the ratings tally begins to fade. Instead of just down 16% from NBC’s 2019 figure of 5.47 million, the adjusted average Avs-Bolts is down 24% when excluding all bar, restaurant and gym goers. Based on standard household ratings, delivery out of the home appears to have given ABC’s vanilla TV numbers an increase of around 460,000 impressions in a single broadcast.

On the other hand, the number of people who watched prime time television in June was down 26% compared to the same period in 2019, that’s all. However, any comparison to any NBC 16-era Cup Finals is, by definition, a little suspicious given that the previous NHL rights holder always aired two games on its native cable channel, NBCSN. Three years ago, now defunct NBCSN reached 23 million fewer homes than NBC, and the shortfall had a proportionally negative impact on ratings. While the flagship network’s coverage of the Bruins Blues series averaged around 6.2 million viewers, the two games that were transferred to NBCSN attracted only 3.2 million fans.

If you’re wondering why NBC moves two games to cable each year, it’s because the terms of the pay TV transfer agreements state that NBCSN will interfere with what happens. Luckily for the NHL, those same draconian measures aren’t affecting ABC’s stake in the current rights package, meaning this year’s Cup final was the first to air exclusively on the network in 18 years — or 17 if the lockout is excluded. season 2015.

Unfortunately, the cable conundrum hasn’t been fully resolved, and with Turner Sports getting its first opportunity to host the Stanley Cup Finals in 2023, the NHL’s coverage issue is about to resurface after a brief hiatus. Excluding the impact of virtual MVPDs like Sling TV and Hulu, TBS and TNT are available to about 18 million fewer homes than ABC. For the next few odd years, it will be as if NBCSN is back in business, only instead of limiting the damage to a couple of games, every frame of the best-of-seven series will be on cable.

Overall, the first year of the Disney-Turner Sports era marked a major win for the NHL. $5.2 billion in total revenue. (The cost of the new contract, three times that of the old deal with NBC, has certainly boosted the league’s revenue, although returning to the standard 82-game schedule and filled arenas has done most of the hard work.) properties, professional hockey is finally gaining prominence which other leagues have long taken for granted. If nothing else, return to Sports Complex The rotation after two decades of wandering through the Witness Protection Program has done wonders for the NHL brand.

Whether media partners have an unconditional victory is a completely different question. During the first three rounds of the playoffs, Disney and Turner Sports averaged 1.12 million viewers, flat from 2019 levels and in line with what NBC has been serving during the last decade of post-season coverage. Still, it can be difficult to justify the cost of an NHL deal, with Turner paying $225 million a year and ESPN/ABC nearly double that. Last year, advertisers invested about $191.3 million to secure the NHL’s in-game inventory, and doubling the number of networks that stream games doesn’t automatically increase revenue by 100%.

Whatever the case, 75 of the games in the Disney package this season have aired on ESPN+, and over time, HBO Max is expected to take over part of Turner Sports’ schedule in the NHL. And while the vicissitudes of digital price lists and ARPU don’t always make for the most compelling topics of discussion, it’s admittedly hard to miss the downsides of road sharing. Turner Sports pays the same amount as NBC each year, but only gets three Stanley Cup Finals for its troubles. ABC gets four titles but pays twice as much as NBC.

For what it’s worth, it’s the same NBC that concluded it had gone as far as it could with its NHL partnership before actually pulling out of the auction with a low $100 million a year offer. NBC knew it was time to leave and left. If Disney and Turner’s investments are largely based on attracting a larger concentration of younger and wealthier sports fans to their respective streaming platforms, then the final tally of the wisdom of their joint partnership with the NHL could take years.

Less ambiguous is how the NHL will evolve over the long term. It’s simple: they won.

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