Well, we won Game 6 three years ago in one sense.
Monday's game had a 4.7 rating and 8.16 million viewers on NBC, behind our Game 6 against Chicago at 4.7/8.29 million. Monday's game ranked third on NBC since 2006, the highest being Game 7 of Boston-Vancouver in 2011 (4.8/8.537 million.) Peak viewership in this year's Game 6 was 10.424 million.
It was the most-watched Final since at least 1994 (I can't find cumulative records that predate this), with an average of 5.76 million viewers, including the two games on NBCSN. Viewership was up 83%/91% (1.8/3.012 million) over last year's LA-NJ series.
The playoff average was 1.467 million per game (84 games), the most since 1.52 million in 1997 on ESPN/ESPN2/FOX, and up 18% against last year (81 games).
Cable viewership was up 17% over last year's playoffs, at 1 million per game, and it was the most-watched playoffs on cable since 1999 (ESPN/ESPN2) at 1.022 million. This capped a season which saw an 18% increase in NBCSN viewership over last year and had the highest regular-season cable viewership since the year before the first lockout, 1993-94, on ESPN/ESPN2. It will be interesting to see how the numbers are in the first few months of next season, which usually generate the weakest ratings. And perhaps the lockout had the opposite effect than what was feared - it drew more concentrated viewership from fans who were more starving than angry.
Local markets for Game 6:
Minneapolis-St. Paul (7.3)
Hartford-New Haven (6.8)
Ft. Myers (6.3)
St. Louis (5.8)
I'm a little surprised that Detroit wasn't in the Top 10. Maybe they couldn't stomach the prospect of watching the Hawks win. A side note is that I believe these figures - any of the U.S. figures in this post - don't include viewers in markets near the Canadian border who chose to watch the game on the CBC. I think this is a subject worth some research. I'll always watch the CBC when I am able and most of my hockey-mad friends feel the same way.
One area for future growth is the hockey fan in the non-local market. This from a Forbes article in May:
The NHL cites research from Scarborough and Simmons/PMB that shows its fanbase as 58 million people in the United States and 13 million in Canada. Of those, it considers 12 million in the U.S. and 8.5 million in Canada part of a growing "avid" cohort who watch games league-wide (note: by league reckoning, this accounts for 3 out of 10 Canadian adults). That leaves almost 50 million fans who fall into this danger zone of caring mostly for their local team.
Interesting, though pegging the U.S. fanbase at 18.6% of the general population seems high, compared to Canada at 37.1%. I've seen a number of other studies that indicate TV viewership percentages are vastly higher in the U.S. than Canada. It makes sense, though, that Canada would retain a much higher percentage of non-local fans (roughly 70% vs. 20% in the U.S.).
Game 6 ranked ninth in U.S. NHL game viewership since 1966. We were about a minute away from a Game 7, with the possibility of topping 10 million for the first time in more than 40 years.
1. 5/18/71, Montreal-Chicago – Game 7, 12.41 million, CBS
2. 5/11/72, Boston-NY Rangers – Game 6, 10.93 million, CBS
3. 5/10/73, Montreal-Chicago – Game 6, 9.41 million, NBC
4. 6/15/11, Boston-Vancouver – Game 7, 8.54 million, NBC
5. 4/30/72, NY Rangers-Boston – Game 1, 8.51 million, CBS
6. 5/12/74, Boston-Philadelphia – Game 3, 8.30 million, NBC
7. 6/9/10, Chicago-Philadelphia – Game 6, 8.28 million, NBC
8. 5/7/72, Boston-NY Rangers – Game 4, 8.26 million, CBS
9. 6/24/13, Chicago-Boston – Game 6, 8.16 million, NBC
10. 6/12/09, Pittsburgh-Detroit – Game 7, 7.99 million, NBC
11. 5/19/74, Boston-Philadelphia – Game 6, 7.85 million, NBC
These numbers, of course, pale in comparison to the NBA, which grabbed 26.3 million U.S. viewers for Game 7 of this year's final, are routinely between 15 and 20 million and which have not fallen below 10 million viewers for a Finals game, even during the slump after the 1998 lockout and the retirement of Michael Jordan.
World Series baseball is actually closer. Playoff hockey was beating regular-season MLB on Fox this year, and by the widest margin among young viewers. Last year's World Series Game 3 had only 10.5 million viewers, and four of the last five World Series have had at least one game below 12 million (the lowest being the rain-delayed Game 3 of the Phillies-Tampa Bay series at 9.8 million.)
Sources: Tvbythenumbers.com, Forbes.com, Wikipedia