With the possibility of a Triple Crown promising big numbers for the Belmont Stakes, NBC has rescheduled Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final to take advantage of the lead-in.
Game 2 of the Rangers/Kings Stanley Cup Final will remain on Saturday, June 7, but will air at 7:30 PM ET on NBC instead of 8 PM on NBCSN [full schedule here]. The game will now air directly after NBC coverage of The Belmont Stakes, which features the possibility of a Triple Crown winner for the first time in six years.
Since NBC first began airing the race, The Belmont Stakes has averaged approximately 15.8 million viewers in years when the Triple Crown was at stake (2002-04, 2008). The peak audience was 21.9 million for Smarty Jones’ failed attempt in 2004.
NBC has not aired any sports programming after a Triple Crown race since losing NBA rights in 2002. In the most recent occurrence, Game 1 of the Lakers/Kings conference final drew a 6.3 rating and 9.2 million viewers — retaining nearly all of its Preakness lead-in (6.5, 9.2M). Of course, that may have had more to do with the Lakers’ appeal than anything else. Two weeks earlier, Game 1 of a Mavericks/Kings semifinal had a 4.4 and 6.5 million, barely half of what the Kentucky Derby pulled in (8.3, 12.8M). Even so, Game 1 still did better than Game 4 the following Saturday with no lead-in (3.8, 5.0M).
Game 2 of last year’s Stanley Cup Final drew 4.0 million viewers on NBCSN, and the last Game 2 to air on NBC (2011) earned 3.6 million. This year’s Game 2 figures to surpass those totals easily and surpass last year’s Game 5 (5.6M) as the most-watched Saturday night Stanley Cup Final game since Devils/Avalanche Game 7 in 2001 (6.9M).