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ESPN secures best NHL playoff conference final US ratings since 2013

Ice hockey league steps up digital initiatives to drive awareness of Stanley Cup Finals on ABC.

15 June 2022 Steve McCaskill
ESPN secures best NHL playoff conference final US ratings since 2013

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  • ESPN is in the first year of a major domestic TV deal with the NHL
  • Game six between Rangers and Lightning attracted 3.8m peak audience
  • AR Stanley Cup hopes to drive fan engagement

The 2022 Stanley Cup Eastern Conference finals were the most-watched for that stage of the National Hockey League (NHL)  postseason since 2013, earning broadcaster ESPN an average of 2.4 million viewers per match.

Ratings for the six-game series between the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning were up by 82 per cent from last year’s Covid-impacted conference finals and up 32 per cent from that stage in 2019 – the last season not to be impacted by the pandemic.

Viewership peaked at 3.8 million during game six, which was the most-viewed conference final game 6 on pay-TV since 2002, and game one was the most-viewed first match in a conference final since 1994.

The figures will delight both league and broadcaster who are in the first season of a domestic rights deal that has seen games shown not just on ESPN but also on ABC and the ESPN+ streaming platform. The seven year-deal will also see ABC broadcast four Stanley Cup finals series exclusively live, including this season’s contest between the Lighting and Western Conference champions Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche’s four-game sweep of the Edmonton Oilers secured an average of 1.8 million viewers on TNT, the NHL’s other US broadcaster. That’s the best for a Western Conference finals since 2015, when the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks averaged 2.47 million viewers.

After a successful first year of its new broadcast arrangements, the NHL is stepping up its digital initiatives in a bid to generate excitement ahead of this year’s finals.

The ice hockey league has created a digital replica of the Stanley Cup, allowing users on mobile, tablet, and desktop to examine the famous trophy in great detail.

The digital replica allows fans to see the engraving of each winning team from 1893 through to 2022, while they can also walk around the trophy and look inside the cup through an augmented reality (AR) application.

“The Stanley Cup has always been the fans’ trophy,” declared Heidi Browning, chief marketing officer at the NHL. “It travels more than 300 days each year, spends 24 hours with every player who has won it, and any fan who is lucky enough to see it in person can touch it. Now fans will get to explore it as closely as if it was the real thing in front of them. Even better, fans can digitally hoist the Cup and snap the photo we all dream of taking.”

Filters for Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok are also available in a bid to drive awareness of the series on social media, and potentially explore the fabled history of the event in its records archive.

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