Ratings Roundup: NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Hit 15-Year High; NBA Conference Finals Tip-Off on High Note

NBC’s coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, in which every single game has been televised nationally, has been a resounding success through the first three rounds. With an average audience of 1.09 million viewers on NBC, NBC Sports Network, and CNBC, the 2012 NHL Playoffs rank as the most watched in 15 years through the Conference Finals (1.24 million on FOX, ESPN, and ESPN2 in 1997). Total audience for the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs across the three NBC networks is 43.2 million viewers through 75 games, up 13% vs. last year (38.1 million).

NBC is averaging 2.2 million viewers through the first three rounds, the best for a broadcast network in a decade (2.3 million on ABC in 2002), and up 16% vs. last year (1.9 million). NBC Sports Network’s 994,000 average viewers are also the best for a single NHL playoff cable network in a decade (ESPN 1.152 million in 2002) and up 16% vs. last year (854,000).

In addition to NBC’s coverage in the U.S., more than 23 million viewers watched across Canada on CBC, TSN, TSN2, RDS, RDS2 and RDSI. The three-round average on CBC is up 43 percent over 2009, which marks the last time a Canadian team did not advance to the Conference Finals…

…The first two games of the Celtics/Heat Eastern Conference Finals have been a slam dunk for ESPN, while Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on TNT posted solid numbers despite being down from last year.

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals drew 8.989 million viewers on ESPN Monday night, up 29% from Thunder/Mavericks Game 1 on a Tuesday night last year (6.98M) but down 19% compared to Game 1 of last year’s Heat/Bulls Eastern Conference Finals on TNT, (11.11M). The game ranks as the 14-most viewed NBA game ever on cable, third-most viewed on ESPN, and third-most viewed conference final opener of the past decade.

Game 2 of the Celtics/Heat series drew a 6.6 overnight on ESPN Wednesday night, up 29% from Thunder/Mavericks Game 2 on a Thursday night last year (5.1). Compared to Game 2 between the Heat and Bulls on TNT last year, the 6.6 overnight marks an 11% decline from a 7.4 overnight.

Meanwhile, Game 1 of the Thunder/Spurs NBA Western Conference Finals drew a 4.8 U.S. rating and 7.764 million viewers on TNT Sunday night, down 23% in ratings and 30% in viewership from Heat/Bulls Game 1 last year (6.2, 11.109M), but up 9% and 10%, respectively, from Suns/Lakers Game 1 on a Monday night in 2010 (4.4, 7.112M). Compared to Game 1 of last year’s Thunder/Mavericks series on ESPN (4.3, 6.982M), Sunday’s game increased by 12% in ratings and 11% in viewership. Sunday’s game ranks as the third-highest rated Game 1 of a conference final since 2002. In addition, the game ranks as the highest rated conference final opener to involve the Spurs since Lakers/Spurs Game 1 on NBC in 2001 (6.0)…

…The IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 drew a 4.3 fast-national rating and 6.8 million viewers on ABC Sunday afternoon, up 8% in ratings and 1% in viewership from last year (4.0, 6.711M). This marks the highest rated and most-viewed edition of the Indy 500 since 2008 (4.6, 7.245M). Even with the four-year high, the race lost once again to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 on FOX (4.4, 7.405M). Over the past decade, the Coca-Cola 600 has drawn a higher rating than the Indy 500 in every year but one (2005), and has had more viewers every single year.

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