The first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs proved historic for ESPN and Turner Sports, with ratings for TNT and TBS the highest since the advent of cable television.
Games covered on ESPN, ESPN2, TNT and TBS averaged 768,000 viewers, an increase of 58 percent from last season on NBCSN, CNBC and USA Network.
Turner Sports broke records for individual game and total rounds. The series-deciding game between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins on TBS on May 15 delivered 2.3 million average viewers, making it the most-watched first-round game ever on cable. The number was the most for a non-Stanley Cup Final game on cable since Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Final, when 2.6 million watched the Washington Capitals defeat the Tampa Lightning 4-0.
Game 7 between the Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs on TNT on May 14 averaged 1.7 million viewers, making it the second-most watched first round game on ever on cable. Female viewership for NHL playoff games airing on TNT and TBS also enjoyed substantial increases, going up 83 percent on cable from 2021 and 49 percent from 2019.
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“I’m pleased,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “It is what we hoped and expected. The Walt Disney Company, ESPN, ABC, HULU, ESPN+, Turner, which is Warner Brothers/Discovery now, they have great platforms. They are doing a great job in promotion, they are doing a great job in production…. If you look at how the schedule was in the first round, it was sensational the way we had the games every night. We had four games, certainly at the beginning, until teams started dropping out or getting beaten. On every metric we can think about in terms of communication, enthusiasm, energy, the investments they have made, including talent, we couldn’t be more pleased with the treatment we are getting with these partners.”
The ratings boon comes during the first of a seven-year media rights agreement in the United States between the NHL and Turner Sports, which will televise the Stanley Cup Final in 2023, 2025 and 2027.
“We’re thrilled with every aspect of our NHL coverage and we’re very grateful for the response from the hockey community,” Turner Sports president Lenny Daniels said. “This has been an amazing partnership with the League and the result of all the excitement on the ice, as well as the many talented people we have working in front of and behind the camera.”
Game 7 between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes on ESPN on May 14 averaged 1.6 million viewers, the fourth-most watched first-round game on cable. Game 7 between the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers on ESPN later that day averaged 1.1 million viewers and peaked at 1.2 million. Game 7 between the Calgary Flames and the Dallas Stars on ESPN on May 15 averaged 1.01 million viewers — an increase of 99% versus the comparable game in 2021 — and peaked at 1.2 million.
“The Stanley Cup Playoffs are off to an incredible start, with five first-round series going seven games,” said Ilan Ben-Hanan, ESPN senior vice president, programming & acquisitions. “We can’t wait to keep bringing these incredible games to fans, including the entire Stanley Cup Final on ABC and ESPN+.”
The Stanley Cup Final will air on ABC this season, 2024, 2026 and 2028 as part of a seven-year United States streaming and media rights deal that brought the NHL back to ESPN for the first time since 2004.
A cumulative North American audience of 28 million tuned in for five Game 7s (two that went to overtime), including an average of 6.1 million for Lightning-Maple Leafs and 4.3 million for Penguins-Rangers.
The second round of the 2022 playoffs began Tuesday with Game 1 of the Lightning and Florida Panthers (Tampa Bay won 4-1), and the Colorado Avalanche playing the St. Louis Blues (9:30 pm ET; TNT, CBC, SN, TVAS).
NHL.com senior director of editorial Shawn P. Roarke contributed to this report