Ratings Roundup: 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Skates Through Second Round as Most-Watched on Record

Ratings roundup is a rundown of rating news from the past week and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs keeps up the ratings pace through two rounds, the Premier League’s Championship Sunday scoops its most-watched day in the U.S., ESPN and ABC’s conference semifinals are the highest in eight years, NBC Sports raises its first-ever NTT IndyCar Grand Prix to the highest spot in five years, the UEFA Champions League were up 50%, and the Liga MX Quarterfinals leapfrogs major networks.

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Continue to Roll to Ratings High
With 34 one-goal games, 15 overtime contests, and four Game 7s through two rounds, the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are setting national, local and digital viewership and consumption milestones, according to Nielsen and Adobe Analytics.

The highlights include:

  • For the entire 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, NBC Sports is averaging a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 1.073 million viewers across NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, USA Network, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, making it the most-watched playoffs on record through two rounds.
  • NBC Sports’ cable coverage of the 2019 playoffs across NBCSN, CNBC, USA Network, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, is averaging a TAD of 911,000 viewers, making it the most-watched cable delivery on record through the Second Round.
  • The Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs stands as the most-watched Second Round on record, averaging a TAD of 1.621 million viewers across NBC, NBCSN, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app.
  • Viewers have live streamed more than a half-billion minutes through two rounds (526.8 million), up 39% compared to the same time period last season.
  • Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, St. Louis and San Jose all set local ratings records during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The viewership and consumption records are even more impressive considering the absence of many teams from the largest media markets or with strong hockey histories, such as the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, and Detroit Red Wings. In addition, the four teams that played in the past two Stanley Cup Finals – the Washington Capitals (2018), Vegas Golden Knights (2018), Pittsburgh Penguins (2017) and Nashville Predators (2017) – were all eliminated in the First Round this year.

Note: The term “on record” means since 1994, which is the year when People Meters first included cable viewing.

For the 69 games of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, NBC Sports is averaging a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 1.073 million viewers across NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, USA Network, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app, making it the most-watched playoffs on record through two rounds. Viewership is up 1% compared to 2018 (1.067 million), which held the previous record through two rounds.

NBC Sports’ cable coverage of the 2019 playoffs across NBCSN, CNBC, USA Network, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app, is averaging a TAD of 911,000 viewers, making it the most-watched cable delivery on record through the Second Round and up 10% compared to last year (825,000).

Following are the Top 10 markets for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs to date across NBC, NBCSN, CNBC and USA Network:

  1. Buffalo 2.74
  2. Boston 2.38
  3. St. Louis 2.23
  4. Providence 2.04
  5.  Columbus, Ohio 1.97
  6. Denver 1.87
  7. Pittsburgh 1.65
  8. Minneapolis-St. Paul 1.39
  9. Raleigh 1.30
  10.  Las Vegas 1.14

Second Round
The Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs was the most-watched Second Round on record, averaging a TAD of 1.621 million viewers for 24 games across NBC, NBCSN, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app. Viewership was also up 3% vs. last year (1.574 million).

Columbus-Boston Game 5, which followed Kentucky Derby coverage in primetime this past Saturday night, averaged a TAD of 4.618 million viewers, ranking as the second-most watched non-Stanley Cup Final NHL game on television since 1993 and up 7% vs. the comparable game in 2018. It trailed only Chicago-Anaheim (4.636 million), which was a Western Conference Game 7 in 2015.

The top cable game of the Second Round was Boston-Columbus Game 4 on NBCSN, which averaged a TAD of 2.065 million viewers and is the network’s most-watched Second Round Game 4 on record. It was up 15% from the comparable 2018 game.

Wednesday’s exciting Colorado-San Jose Second Round Game 7 averaged a TAD of 1.754 million viewers on NBCSN, making it the most-watched late game in four years (Chi-Ana Game 5, 2.092 million) and up 9% vs. last year’s Winnipeg-Nashville Game 7 (1.611 million).

Viewership peaked with nearly 2.1 million viewers. Both Denver and San Jose set viewership milestones for the game. See below.

Digital
Across NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app streaming platforms, the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs to date have totaled 526.8 million live minutes, up 39% compared to the same time last year.

This was also the most streamed Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs ever in Average Minute Audience (AMA) and live minutes streamed. The Second Round totalled 255.2 million live minutes, up 29% compared to the complete Second Round last year. The AMA of 59,700 viewers was up 30% year over year.

The Dallas-St. Louis double-overtime Game 7 set Second Round records in AMA, uniques and live minutes. The game delivered an AMA of 103,900 viewers, which stands as the highest AMA on record for a Second Round game. The game’s 328,000 uniques and 25.7 million live minutes also rank as the highest on record for a Second Round game.

Colorado-San Jose Game 7 delivered an AMA of 87,700 viewers, which ranks as a Top 3 Second Round AMA and was up 60% compared to last year’s Winnipeg-Nashville Second Round Game 7.

Local

  • Colorado, Columbus, and Dallas all drew NBC Sports’ best NHL ratings ever in their respective markets, while Carolina, St. Louis, and San Jose all had NBC Sports’ best Second Round ratings in their markets.
  • Carolina: 7.7 for Raleigh for Islanders-Hurricanes Game 3 on NBCSN ranks as NBC Sports’ highest Second Round NHL delivery on record in Raleigh.
  • Colorado: 11.2 in Denver for Avalanche-Sharks Game 7 on NBCSN stands as NBC Sports’ highest NHL delivery on record in Denver.
  • Columbus: 15.2 for Columbus for Blue Jackets-Bruins Game 5 on NBC ranks as NBC Sports’ highest NHL delivery on record in Columbus.
  • Dallas: 5.2 in Dallas for Blues-Stars Game 6 on NBC stands as NBC Sports’ highest NHL delivery on record in Dallas.
  • St. Louis: 16.0 in St. Louis for Stars-Blues Game 7 on NBCSN ranks as NBC Sports’ highest Second Round NHL delivery on record in St. Louis.
  • San Jose: 5.2 in San Jose for Avalanche-Sharks Game 7 on NBCSN stands as NBC Sports’ highest Second Round NHL delivery on record in San Jose.

Premier League Nets Most American Viewers on “Championship Sunday”
NBC Sports’ presentation of an epic Championship Sunday, featuring all 10 Premier League matches on the platforms of NBCUniversal (10 a.m.-Noon ET), registered a record Total Audience Delivery of 2.2 million viewers – marking the most-watched Championship Sunday in U.S. TV history, according to official national data provided by Nielsen and digital data from Adobe Analytics. Sunday’s viewership milestone, which is up 19% from last year’s season finale (1.8 million), concludes NBC Sports’ year of innovative Premier League coverage.

With the Premier League title coming down to the season’s final day for the first time in five years, the NBC game (second-place Liverpool hosting Wolverhampton Wanderers) and the NBCSN match (first-place Manchester City at Brighton & Hove Albion) averaged a TAD of 1.3 million viewers – the best viewership ever on U.S. TV for the top two matches on Championship Sunday.

For the season, more than 35 million Americans watched NBC Sports’ presentation of the Premier League on the networks of NBCUniversal, with hundreds of thousands more streaming, live game action on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app, and NBC Sports Gold’s subscription-based “Premier League Pass.”

In its six seasons presenting the Premier League (since 2013), NBC Sports has reached an average of 34.6 million TV viewers per season – more than doubling the prior season (13.3 million on ESPN, ESPN2 and Fox Soccer, 2012-13).

Highlights include:

  • Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Manchester United on Sunday, March 10 posted a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) average of 1.68 million viewers across all platforms – NBC, NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app, and Telemundo – to rank as the second most-watched live Premier League match in U.S. history (1.72 million for the Manchester Derby in April 2018 on NBC, NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app, and Telemundo).
  • NBC Sports Group averaged a Total Audience Delivery of 457,000 per match window – up 2% from last season (449,000) (does not include Spanish-language telecasts or NBC Sports Gold streaming).
  • NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app delivered 879 million live streaming minutes – the most all time — during the 2018-19 season. In addition, seven of the 10 most-streamed Premier League matches in the U.S. took place in 2018-19.
  • Debut episodes of The Men in Blazers Show, hosted by popular soccer personalities Michael Davies and Roger Bennett, delivered its most-watched season ever, averaging 133,000 viewers – up 53% from 2017-18.
  • Since kicking off its Premier League coverage in August 2013, NBC Sports Group has televised 18 of the 20 most-watched live Premier League matches ever in the U.S. across all platforms.
  • The new Premier League Pick ‘Em game on the NBC Sports Predictor app (details below), generated 1.2 million entries by more than 158,000 unique participants since the game’s launch on December 26.

On the local side, the following are the U.S. TV markets with the highest average season-long ratings on Premier League telecasts on NBC/NBCSN, and NBC only (note: all NBC games, other than on “Championship Sunday,” started at 12:30 pm ET/9:30 am PT or later, while some NBCSN games kicked off as early as 7 am ET/4 am PT):

NBC/NBCSN

  • 1) Washington, D.C.
  • 2) Baltimore
  • 3) West Palm Beach
  • 4) Fort Myers
  • 4) Richmond
  • 6) Norfolk
  • 7) Hartford
  • 7) Milwaukee
  • 9) San Francisco
  • 10) Providence

Top 10 Local Market Ratings, NBC only

  • 1) Washington, D.C
  • 2) Fort Myers
  • 2) Providence
  • 4) Memphis
  • 5)Norfolk
  • 5) Cincinnati
  • 7) New Orleans
  • 8) Greenville
  • 9) Las Vegas
  • 10) Richmond

ESPN Notches Highest-Rated Conference Finals Game 1 Since 2012
ESPN generated its highest-rated NBA Conference Finals Game 1 since 2012 on Tuesday, according to Nielsen. The Golden State Warriors 116-94 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers delivered a 5.8 metered market rating, up four percent from the most recent NBA Western Conference Finals Game 1 – Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs in 2017 – that drew a 5.6 rating. It was also up seven percent from ESPN’s Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 last year – Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics – that drew a 5.4 rating. Last night’s Game 1 peaked with a 6.3 rating from 10:45-11 p.m. ET.

ESPN also generated its highest-rated NBA Draft Lottery presented by State Farm telecast ever on Tuesday. The Draft Lottery telecast drew a 3.9 metered market rating, peaking with a 4.3 rating from 8:45-9 p.m. It was up 77 percent from a 2.2 rating for last year’s telecast. Additionally, it was up 22 percent from the 2015 Draft Lottery telecast, which held the previous record rating with a 3.2. The top local markets for the Draft Lottery telecast were Cleveland (7.6), Norfolk (7.5), New York (6.7), Hartford (5.8) and Washington, D.C. (5.6).

The top five local markets for ESPN’s NBA Western Conference Finals Game 1 telecast were San Francisco-Oakland (21.9), Portland (20.5), Sacramento (10.2), Norfolk (7.4), and Charlotte (7.4).

In the conference semifinals, ESPN and ABC earned their highest-rated NBA Playoffs second round since 2012, according to Nielsen. Metered market ratings for ESPN and ABC’s game coverage were up 20% compared to 2018 and up 24% to 2017. The platforms averaged a 4.2 metered market rating across 11 game telecasts, up from a 3.5 rating from last season and a 3.4 from 2017.

Sunday’s Game 7 between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets generated a 4.8 metered market rating on ABC. The rating was up 9% from the last time ABC aired an NBA Conference Semifinals broadcast in 2016 (Miami Heat vs. Toronto Raptors, 4.4 rating). The broadcast averaged a 19.9 rating in the Portland market, making it the highest-rated NBA game on ABC in 16 years.

Friday night’s Game 6 of Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets drew a 5.8 metered market rating, peaking with a 7.2 rating from 11:15-11:30 p.m. ET, according to Nielsen. It is also ESPN’s second-highest rated Conference Semifinals telecast ever.

The telecast delivered an 18.7 rating in the San Francisco-Oakland market and a 13.2 rating in the Houston market. The third-highest rated market was Portland (9.0 rating), followed by Sacramento (8.1 rating) and Atlanta (7.7 rating).

In Canada, basketball broadcast history was made on Sunday night as 5.8 million Canadians watched some or all of the Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers nail-biting Game 7 on Sportsnet. A record-breaking average of 2.2 million viewers tuned in, making it the most-watched NBA game ever in Canada.

Sportsnet had a peak audience of 3.8 million Canadians at 9:33 p.m. ET as Kawhi Leonard made the shot heard around the basketball universe to send the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Wrapping up with an historic Game 7 performance, Sportsnet’s multiplatform coverage of the Raptors Round 2 series against the 76ers (Game 1, 3, 5 & 7) captured a series average audience of 1.3 million viewers and reached 6.8 million Canadian basketball fans, marking a 113% YOY increase over Round 2 in 2018.

IndyCar Grand Prix Shines on Inaugural NBC Broadcast
Saturday afternoon’s INDYCAR Grand Prix from Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the first-ever NTT IndyCar Series race to air on the NBC broadcast network – averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 1.072 million viewers, making it the most-watched INDYCAR Grand Prix in five years, and up 37% vs. last year’s race on ABC, according to Nielsen and Adobe Analytics.

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud won the exciting, rain-soaked race at IMS by passing Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing on the next-to-last lap to register his first victory since the 2017 season finale at Sonoma.

The TAD of 1.072 million viewers for the sixth INDYCAR Grand Prix was the best since the inaugural race in 2014 (1.244 million viewers) and up 37% vs. last year (781,000). Viewership for the race peaked with a TV-only audience of 1.414 million viewers during the final laps of Pagneaud’s exciting victory (5:45-5:52 p.m. ET). Indianapolis led all markets with a 6.65 local rating.

Following are the Top 5 markets for the 2019 INDYCAR Grand Prix:

  1. Indianapolis 6.65
  2. Ft. Myers-Naples 1.87
  3. Louisville 1.62
  4. Dayton 1.58
  5. San Diego 1.57
  6. St. Louis 1.57

Through five races, the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series has averaged a TAD of 536,000 viewers across four races on NBCSN and one on NBC, up 51% vs. NBC Sports’ first five races of 2018, all on NBCSN (354,000).

Dramatic UEFA Champions League Semifinals Spur Increase
The new UEFA Champions League TV deal with Turner Sports has paid dividends in viewership. According to SportsMediaWatch, both semifinals averaged a combined 1.25 million viewers, up 50% from last year (835K) and up 92% from 2017 (653K). The Univision networks averaged 695,000, a record for the UEFA semifinals on a single outlet. TNT averaged 556,000 (+17%).

In last Tuesday’s second leg between Barcelona and Liverpool, which saw Liverpool overcome a 3-goal first leg deficit to win on aggregate, delivered a combined audience of 1.43 million viewers across Univision, Univision Deportes Network and TNT — up 40% from last year (Bayern Munich-Real Madrid: 1.02M) and up 185% from 2017 (Monaco-Juventus: 504K). It was the most-watched UEFA semifinal in at least five years.

As for the next day’s second leg between Ajax and Tottenham, the thriller combined 1.12 million (+75%), with 611,000 on the Univision networks (+174%) and 509,000 on TNT (+22%).

Liga MX Quarterfinals
With its live coverage of the Liga MX matchup between Tigres UANL and Pachuca, Univision captured the No. 2 broadcast network ranking, ahead of ABC, CBS, Fox, and Telemundo on Saturday night among Adults 18-34. Tigres UANL vs. Pachuca attracted more Total Viewers 2+ (+8% to 928,000), Adults 18-49 (+11% to 460,000) and Adults 18-34 (+12% to 176,000) than the prior Saturday’s soccer match of Leon vs. Tigres UANL as well as increased the network’s audience levels in the 7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. time slot from the comparable Saturday last year among Total Viewers 2+ (+8%), Adults 18-49 (+36%) and Adults 18-34 (+39%). Tigres UANL and Pachuca also ranked as the second and sixth highest-rated program on broadcast television with Adults 18-34 and Adults 18-49, respectively and made Univision the No. 1 Spanish-language network with doubled the audience levels of Telemundo for the fifth consecutive Saturday night among Adults 18-34 and for the seventh consecutive Saturday night among Adults 18-49 and Total Viewers 2+.

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