The 2021-22 NHL season is in the books, and the Avalanche’s six-game Stanley Cup Final victory over the Lightning delivered mixed (but mostly alright) results.
The Final averaged 4.6 million viewers over the six games on ABC, up from both 2020 and 2021. However, per the detailed viewership history at Sports Media Watch, the series was down from each of the three series from both 2013-2015 and 2017-2019. But to be fair, the gap between 2022 and the series in 2014, 2017, and 2018 were only better by single digits.
More caveats: out of home viewing was included in the viewership data this year, while it was not for every series prior to the pandemic. Also, this year’s series all aired on ABC broadcast TV, while during the NBC deal, two games every year were punted to cable. That led to a post-lockout high viewership for Game 3, which drew 4.1 million viewers. Five of the six games hit four million viewers, with Game 2 (airing on a Saturday) as the lone outlier. Sunday’s Game 6 clincher predictably was the most-watched game of the series, drawing 5.82 million viewers.
If the series went to a seventh game, which would have taken place Tuesday night, average viewership for the series likely would have ticked up to the point where headlines could read “third most-watched in nine years” instead of “best since 2019,” but that’s the way life goes.
All in all, ESPN and the NHL will be pleased with the overall viewership for the Final, since it was right in that sweet spot that most Finals over the last decade have been in. It caps off a postseason that saw the Western Conference Finals hit their best viewership since 2015, and saw the Eastern Conference Finals draw the best viewership for any Conference Finals series since 2013. Yeah, the showpiece Final itself couldn’t match those superlatives, but it wasn’t an embarrassment like the previous two years.
Next year’s Final will be a Turner production, and will air on TNT. Because of that placement on cable, I’d be shocked if viewership for the 2023 Final approaches this years.