Entering the Stanley Cup Final, viewership for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs hit a fifteen-year high on the NBC family of networks.
The first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs averaged 1.09 million viewers across NBC, NBC Sports Network and CNBC, the highest average since FOX, ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 1.24 million in 1997.
In particular, NBC Sports Network averaged 994,000 viewers for playoff coverage — up 16% from last year (854K), and the highest average for the playoffs on a single cable network since ESPN averaged 1.152 million in 2002. The overall increase comes despite an 11% decline in viewership for the conference finals.
One major contributing factor to the stronger numbers on NBCSN is the fact that all second round games aired exclusively for the first time. In previous years, several second round games were blacked out in local markets.
On the NBC broadcast network, the first three rounds averaged 2.2 million viewers, also up 16% from last year (1.9M), and the highest average for the playoffs on broadcast since ABC averaged 2.3 million in 2002.