The 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Final started on Saturday, and viewership was somewhat disappointing for Game 1.
Per Warner Bros Discovery Sports, the Golden Knights’ victory over the Panthers averaged 2.8 million viewers over TNT, TBS, and truTV. The company is touting the opener as the most-watched cable Game 1 of the Final in 21 years, though it’s just the second Game 1 to air on cable in over a decade.
WBD Sports is off to a strong start to its first ever Stanley Cup Final, posting cable’s most watched SCF opener in 21 years!
More ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/wLbIzYG2ji
— Warner Bros. Discovery Sports U.S. PR (@WBDSportsPR) June 6, 2023
Last year’s Game 1 between the Avalanche and Lightning, airing on ABC, averaged 4.2 million viewers.
In the NHL’s years on NBC, the Final was split between cable and broadcast. The COVID-impacted 2021 Final began with two games on NBCSN, and concluded with three games on NBC. The 2020 Final, more severely impacted by COVID, featured Games 1, 4, 5, and 6 on broadcast and Games 2 and 3 on cable. This year’s Game 1, like last year’s, managed to top the opener of each of those series.
However, Game 1 this season fell behind not just 2022, but also every Final Game 1 between 2009 and 2019, which all aired on NBC. It did beat the cable openers from 2006-2008, which aired on OLN and Versus, and the 2003 and 2004 Game 1s, which aired on ESPN.
Overall, this outcome wasn’t unexpected. In addition to airing on cable, the game aired on a Saturday night, featured a pair teams from non-traditional NHL markets, and got out of hand in the third period. The teams and network assignment won’t change all series, so the NHL has to cross their fingers for a tight series and fewer games like Monday’s Game 2 blowout.
[Data via Sports Media Watch]