Their Game 7 overtime win over the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks propelled the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanly Cup Final and helped NBCSN hoist its best hockey audience to date.
With its June 1 contest -- LA knocked off Chicago 5-4 in the extra session – NBCSN netted nearly 4.14 million viewers, according to Nielsen data to rank as the most-viewed non-Stanley Cup Final in NHL history, eclipsing the 4.09 million watchers for ESPN’s coverage of Game 7 Eastern Conference finals match between the Carolina Panthers-Pittsburgh Penguins in 1996.
Kings-Blackhawks surpassed the 4.10 million it drew for the United States’ shootout win over Russia from the Sochi Olympics and the 4.001 million watchers for Game 3 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final between Chicago and Boston.
The delivery helped NBC Sports Group boost its average for 86 NHL playoff telecasts across NBCSN,NBC and CNBC to 1.19 million watchers, 11% more than for the first three rounds of the NHL’s 2013 postseason.
NBC Sports Group averaged 1.19 million viewers for 86 playoff games across NBC/NBCSN/CNBC to date, up 11% from 1.07 million viewers for the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year. This year's 1.19 million viewer-average is the best since Fox/ESPN/ESPN2 scored with 1.24 million viewers in 1997.
More specifically, NBCSN, which has aired tk games to date and CNBC (15) have combined to average 1.045 million watchers, 16% ahead of last year's tally during the lockout-truncated campaign, and the most on cable since ESPN notched 1.062 million in 1996. From a ratings perspective, the cable contests were up 13% to a 0.62 from a 0.55 mark in 2013.
However, the conference finals’ performance was down 23% to 2.05 million viewers on average from 2.65 million a year ago, when Boston swept the popular Penquins in four and Chicago dethroned the then-champion Kings in five contests.
This year’s Eastern Conference Finals featured the New York Rangers defeating the Montreal Canadiens in six games, resulting in the Broadway Blueshirts reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994, when they ended a 54-year title drought.
Although Les Habitants have historically been the NHL’s top team with 23 championships, they have not been in the title round since beating Wayne Gretzky’s Kings in 1993 and Nielsen doesn’t tally viewers from across the border in estimating U.S. audiences.