It wasn’t just the Kentucky Derby that brought NBC great ratings Saturday. The Derby drew its second-best audience since 1992, and the following event kept up the momentum. That would be Game Five of the Pittsburgh Penguins-Washington Capitals series, which averaged 4.365 million viewers in total audience delivery (TV plus digital). As per NBC, that’s the most-watched early-round Stanley Cup Playoff game in people meter history, which dates back to 1993. It beat most conference final games, too:
Game 5 (7:11-10 p.m. ET), in which the Capitals staved off elimination by coming back to beat the Penguins 4-2 at home, delivered a Total Audience Delivery average of 4.365 million viewers, making it the most-watched early-round Stanley Cup Playoff game in People Meter history (1993), as well as the second-most watched non-Stanley Cup Final game in 24 years, behind only the Chicago-Anaheim Western Conference Final Game 7 in 2015 (4.636 million).
This year’s Penguins-Capitals Game 5 was up 4% vs. the same series’ Game 5 last year (Total Audience Deliver of 4.187 million), which also aired after the Kentucky Derby.
Interestingly enough, they break out the streaming numbers, which amount to an average audience of 35,000 per minute. That’s not insignificant, but it’s nothing next to the TV audience (4.330 million viewers and a 2.38 household rating). Streaming’s becoming an important part of the picture, and it’s definitely nice for sports networks that it’s being counted more effectively these days, but it’s still rather a drop in the bucket next to TV.
The other key takeaway here is about how important the Penguins-Capitals series is for NBC. Yes, the great Derby lead-in unquestionably helped, but it’s no surprise that it was a game from this series that was able to pull this kind of rating. Penguins-Capitals has established brands, big markets and marquee stars, everything NBC loves to televise when it comes to hockey. And they’re going to get a seventh game of it Wednesday thanks to the Capitals’ 5-2 win Monday night.
The ratings likely won’t be quite as high there thanks to the game being on NBCSN rather than NBC (to say nothing of no Derby lead-in), but that should still draw well, especially in comparison to many of the other second-round matchups. We’ll see how Game Seven does, but it’s certainly notable that Game Five was so historically impressive in the ratings. That bodes well for what NBCSN might be able to draw Wednesday.