Stanley Cup Final, a North American Ratings Bonanza

Florida celebrates winning their first ever Stanley Cup. Elsa/Getty Images

ABC’s U.S. telecast of game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers drew more than 7 million viewers in the United States, the most in five years, according to Nielsen. The number does not include the ESPN+ app, where the game was streamed as well. Overall, the series averaged 4.2 million viewers, which is a 58% increase over last year’s series which aired on TBS and TNT in the States. In Canada, nearly 20% of the population, more than 8.6 million, tuned in for game 7 on CBC, SportsNet and TVA. The U.S. numbers for the entire NHL playoffs were up 14% from the last time that ABC/ESPN aired them in 2022. The average American audience was 1.8 million viewers.

The impressive ratings result for ABC and ESPN come amid much online griping about the coverage, including harsh online criticism of ESPN bafflingly missing the initial Stanley Cup hoisting by Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov. Instead, ABC viewers were treated to a view of another network’s skating cameraman getting the coveted shot.

For the league, the numbers are the encouraging part of their 7-year rights agreement with ABC/ESPN in the United States. At issue will be the quality of the ESPN production, as the Warner Brothers Discovery networks outshone the ESPN team throughout the regular season and playoffs, with better on ice production and a more compelling studio show. For now, though, the NHL’s bet that ABC/ESPN’s 400-pound gorilla status would lead to larger audiences seems to be a good one.

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