May 22, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone celebrates beating the Los Angeles Lakers in game four of the Western Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Networks love when postseason series go six or seven games. That’s when they get to sell extra ads. In the 1st and 2nd Rounds of this year’s NBA postseason and NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, there were a combined total of six series that went the full seven games and another ten series that ended in six. But in the Conference Finals, that has completely turned around with one sweep in the NBA and potentially two more in the NHL.

Series that go the maximum can be an ad sales bonanza totalling as much as eight figures especially in the Finals. ESPN has sold out its ad inventory for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs and ratings for the NBA Playoffs have both ESPN and TNT smiling. However, it’s those Game 7’s that can make network executives pop celebratory champagne bottles in their corner offices.

Disney is hoping for a long NBA Finals to offset the trend in the conference finals. ABC will air the Finals as usual and while it won’t have the Los Angeles Lakers and it certainly doesn’t look good for the Boston Celtics to advance, a longer series would do well to wash away the taste of the Western Conference Finals sweep on ESPN this year.

The same is true for the NHL Stanley Cup Final which will be on TNT this year. On April 30, TNT had the good fortune to air two Game 7’s in the NHL 1st round with Florida upsetting Boston and Seattle winning its first postseason series over Colorado. Warner Bros Discovery ad slots were certainly at a premium that night. However, it’s not having the same luck in the Eastern Conference Final as Florida is on the verge of closing out Carolina in a short series. You know that WBD Sports is rooting for the maximum amount of games in the final.

Not only do longer series bring more eyeballs to TV’s, tablets and cell phones, it also allows ESPN and WBD Sports to promote programming on their sister networks (i.e. Dr. Pimple Popper). Now with one conference final ending in a sweep and potentially two more, it would prevent them from running NBA and NHL games through the Memorial Day Weekend. The lack of premier programming airing up to the start of the league finals in early June means no natural promotion across the Disney and Warner Bros Discovery networks.

Without the NBA and NHL, ESPN has to depend on other programming such as 30 for 30 reruns, the NCAA College Softball Tournament and college baseball conference tournaments. For TNT, it means more re-airs of the Star Wars saga until June 3 when the Stanley Cup Final begins. And certainly those audiences can’t make up for the millions that would be watching nor the ad revenue from the NBA or NHL conference finals.

This couldn’t come at a worse time when both ESPN and WBD Sports are in the midst of layoffs. The money from a longer series could help offset any financial shortfall. For now, the networks are hoping Boston, Carolina and Dallas can extend their series to the point where extra ads are needed. It’s unlikely to happen, but both Disney and Warner Bros Discovery can dream.

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.