Ratings Roundup: 2018 NBA and NHL Conference Finals Make Network History

Ratings roundup is a rundown of ratings news from the past week and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, ESPN saw record-setting viewership of the NBA 2018 Eastern Conference Finals, TNT attained positives with their presentation of the Western Conference Finals, the popularity of both Conference Finals of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs increased every game, the Premier League gained more American interest this past season, the YES Network profited off of the Yankees recent play in May, Sunday Night Football on NBC received more accolades, and Top Rank Boxing on ESPN reached new heights after a particular fight.

ESPN Sees Big Numbers for NBA Eastern Conference Finals
The Boston Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to take a 3-2 series lead in Game 5 and delivered a 5.7 metered market rating. It was the highest-rated telecast of the night across television based on metered market ratings from Nielsen. This is now ESPN’s highest-rated Conference Finals in six years, since Boston vs. Miami in 2012. The 2018 Eastern Conference Finals is averaging a 5.8 metered market rating. Overall, the 2018 NBA Playoffs on ESPN is averaging a 3.4 metered market rating, up 17% from last year. Wednesday’s Game 5  peaked with a 7.0 rating from 10:45-11 p.m. ET. The top five local markets were Cleveland (21.3), Boston (14.4), Columbus (11.0), Providence (9.9) and New Orleans (8.9).

ESPN drew its highest-rated Conference Finals Game 4 in six years on Monday night. The game delivered a 6.1 metered market rating, up 45% from the NBA Western Conference Finals Game 4 (Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs, 4.2) in 2017, and up 15% from the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals Game 4 that drew a 5.3 rating. Monday’s telecast peaked with a 7.2 rating from 11-11:15 p.m. ET. The top five local markets were Cleveland (24.6), Boston (12.9), Columbus (12.1), New Orleans (10.4) and Providence (9.2). NBA Countdown on ESPN generated a 1.3 metered market rating and rose 8% from the corresponding Game 4 pre-game show last year.

Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals on ESPN was the networks’ second-highest rated Game 3 ever, according to Nielsen. The telecast drew a 5.1 metered market rating, up 11% from ESPN’s Western Conference Finals Game 3 last year, and up 2% from 2017’s edition. Despite Cleveland’s dominating 30-point victory over Boston, the telecast peaked with a 5.7 metered market rating three times: 9:15-9:30 p.m. ET, 10-10:15 p.m. and 10:15-10:30 p.m. The top five local markets were Cleveland (22.1), Boston (11.9), Columbus (9.7), Dayton (8.2), and Providence (8.0).

Game 2 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals on ESPN generated a 6.5 metered market rating, making it the highest-rated Eastern Conference Finals Game 2 since 2012. Compared to last year’s Eastern Conference Finals Game 2, this matchup was up 71% It was also up 51% from ESPN’s Western Conference Finals Game 2 in 2017 and peaked with an 8.0 metered market rating in the final quarter-hour – 10:45 p.m.-11 p.m. ET. In the Boston market, the game generated a 16.0 rating, making it the highest-rated NBA game on ESPN in the market since the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. In Cleveland, the telecast generated a 24.4 rating. The rest of the top five markets included Columbus (11.4), Providence (10.9), and San Francisco (9.0).

Sunday’s NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 on ABC – the Boston Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-83 – generated a 5.4 metered market rating, making it the highest-rated Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 since 2015, according to Nielsen. It was up 15% from the same matchup last year (4.7) and up 32% from 2016 when Cleveland vs. Toronto drew a 4.1. The broadcast peaked with a 6.5 rating from 5:30-5:45 p.m. Based on the metered market data, Game 1 was the highest-rated live sports event of the weekend.

NBA Western Conference Finals on TNT
Game 4 in California delivered the third most-watched program across all of television on Tuesday night, based on metered market delivery. Peaking with an average of 10.6 million viewers from 11:15-11:30 p.m. ET, the telecast averaged 8.3 million viewers for an increase of 43% over the 2017 WCF Game 4 and 18% vs. last year’s ECF Game 4, based on Nielsen Fast Nationals. Overall, TNT’s first four WCF telecasts have averaged 8.1 million viewers, up 27% over last year’s Eastern Conference Finals airing on the network (Cavaliers/Celtics) and a gain of 24% vs. the 2017 WCF (Warriors/Spurs).

Game 3 of the series led to a 41-point blowout in favor of the Golden State Warriors, but still had a 4.6 rating with 7.80 million viewers on TNT. There was a 24% increase in ratings and 23% in viewership from Warriors-Spurs on ESPN last year, which aired on a Saturday night (3.7, 6.3M), but down a tick and 3% respectively from Warriors-Thunder on TNT in 2016 (4.7, 8.0M). 9.1 million viewers from 9:30-9:45 PM ET was the peak and is the second-most watched Game 3 of the West Finals since 2010 (Lakers-Suns: 8.5M). It ranks as the third-most watched game of the postseason.

NBA Western Conference Finals Game 2 earned a 4.6 rating and 7.50 million viewers on TNT, up 31% in ratings and 30% in viewership from Spurs-Warriors on ESPN last year (3.5, 5.8M) but down a tick and 1% respectively from Thunder-Warriors on TNT in 2016 (4.7, 7.57M). Compared to last year’s conference final Game 2 on TNT, Cavaliers-Celtics on a Friday night, ratings increased 53% (from 3.0) and viewership 47% (from 5.1M). The game peaked with 8.7 million viewers from 10:45-11 PM ET, ranks as the second-most-watched Game 2 of the West Finals since 2009 (Nuggets-Lakers: 7.9M). Although Game 2 did well, it fell well short of Game 1 Monday night — declining 15% in ratings and viewership from the opener’s 5.4 and 8.8 million. Locally, Wednesday’s game had a 17.3 rating in the Bay Area and a 13.7 in Houston — down 20% and 7% respectively from Game 1 (21.7; 14.7).

TNT’s exclusive coverage of the 2018 NBA Western Conference Finals Game 1 — between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets — averaged 8.8 million total viewers to deliver the network’s most-watched WCF Game 1 of all time. Monday’s game also became the most-watched Game 1 on any network since Lakers/Kings in 2002. The network’s coverage peaked with an average of 10 million viewers from 10:45-11 p.m. ET and is up 38% over TNT’s presentation of the 2017 NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 (Cleveland/Boston, 6.4 million viewers) and 9% when compared with last year’s WCF Game 1 (Warriors/Spurs, 8.1 million viewers). WCF Game 1 was the #1 program of the night across all of television (cable and broadcast) and, including Inside the NBA post-game show (3.0 overnight rating), delivered the top two programs of the night across all of cable television, based on metered markets.

NHL Stanley Cup Conference Finals
Following Tuesday’s thrilling Eastern Conference Final Game 7, in which the Washington Capitals defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-0, to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs to date (78 games) has averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 1.206 million viewers, which stands as the most-watched playoffs in 21 years (1997/ESPN, ESPN2, FOX 1.237 million viewers), and is up 7% vs. 2017 (1.129 million).

Bolstered by a unique matchup in the west and a seven-game series in the east, NBC Sports’ coverage of the NHL’s Eastern and Western Conference Finals averaged a combined TAD of 1.977 million viewers (12 games) across NBC, NBCSN, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app, making it the most-watched Conference Final round in three years(2015, 2.259 million) and up 9% vs. last year (1.808 million).

The Eastern Conference Final averaged a TAD of 2.128 million viewers, making it the second-best ECF in 5 years, since Boston – Pittsburgh in 2013 (2.931 million).

Game 7 between the Capitals and Lightning on NBCSN had a TAD of 2.691 million viewers, making it the most-watched cable game of the 2018 playoffs. Wednesday night’s telecast also ranks as NBCSN’s best non-overtime Game 7 in three years (3.329 million / Tampa Bay – NY Rangers on 5/29/15). Viewing to the game peaked from 10:30 – 10:45 p.m. ET, with more than 3 million viewers.

The Western Conference Final, in which the expansion Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Winnipeg Jets in five games, averaged a TAD of 1.766 million viewers, making it the best WCF in three years, since the seven game Chicago-Anaheim series in 2015 (2.468 million). The 2018 Western Conference Final also finished up 23% vs. last year’s 6-game WCF between Nashville and Anaheim (1.434 million). Across NBC Sports’ streaming platforms – NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app – the 2018 Playoffs to date have totaled 3 million uniques and 504 million live minutes, up 80% and 18%, respectively, compared to the same time period of the 2017 playoffs.

NBC Sports Group’s streaming of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals set records as well for uniques, total live minutes and Average Minute Audience. Streaming of the Conference Finals reached 1.1 million uniques, up 51% vs. 2017; 129 million total live minutes, up 2% vs. 2017; and featured an average minute audience of 61,500, up 33% vs. 2017.

Game 7 of the ECF delivered a total of 290,000 uniques, up 7% vs. 2017, and an Average Minute Audience of 114,200, up 20% vs. 2017, making it the most-streamed NHL game ever in uniques and delivering the highest AMA for an NHL game on record.

Locally, Game 7 of the ECF delivered a 12.6 rating in Washington, D.C., up 62% vs. NBCSN’s 2018 Conference Final avg. between the Capitals and Lightning, making it NBC Sports Group’s highest-rated NHL telecast in D.C.

Tampa delivered a 10.3 local rating for last night’s game, up 21% vs. NBCSN’s 2018 ECF average. Additionally, NBCSN was the #1 network overall in both Washington D.C. and Tampa during the game.

The Western Conference Final, in which the expansion Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Winnipeg Jets in five games, averaged a TAD of 1.766 million viewers, making it the best WCF in three years, since the 7-game Chicago-Anaheim series in 2015 (2.468 million), and the best such series not involving the Chicago Blackhawks in 16 years, since the 7-game Colorado-Detroit series in 2002 (2.866 million). It also finished up 23% vs. last year’s 6-game Western Conference Final between Nashville and Anaheim (1.434 million). The series-clinching Game 5 on NBC averaged a Total Audience Delivery of 2.132 million viewers, up 5% vs. the game in the comparable window last year (Ottawa-Pittsburgh, 2.033 million). TV-only viewership peaked at nearly 3 million viewers (2.995 million). In Las Vegas, Game 5 produced a 17.9 local rating, the best-ever in the market for an NHL game.

Game 6 averaged a TAD of 2.201 million viewers, making it the second-most watched cable game of the playoffs so far behind only Washington-Pittsburgh OT Game 6 (2.321 million), and up 41% vs. the 2017 game in the comparable window (Anaheim-Nashville, Game 6, 1.558 million). Game 6 was also the second-most streamed Conference Final game ever in uniques (245,000) and live minutes (15.6 million). It recorded an Average Minute Audience of 89,600 viewers.

Locally, Tampa scored a 10.5 rating, the market’s third-best for an NBCSN game (excluding Stanley Cup Final games) behind only two previous Lightning Game 7s. Washington posted an 8.7 local rating, the market’s second-best rating for any NHL game.

Saturday night’s Game 5 on NBC immediately followed coverage of the Preakness Stakes, and averaged a TAD of 2.952 million viewers, making it the second-most watched game of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs to date (Pittsburgh-Washington, Game 5, NBC, 4.314 million) and NBC’s most-watched Conference Final game in three years (2015, Chicago-Anaheim, Game 7, 4.636 million). Game 5 was up 24% vs. the comparable game last year (Nashville-Anaheim, 2.378 million). TV-only viewership peaked at 3.896 million viewers. In Tampa, Game 5 delivered a 12.0 local rating, the market’s best on the network for a non-Stanley Cup Final.

Overall, the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs (77 games) are averaging a TAD of 1.187 million viewers, up 9% vs. last year (1.085 million) and the best in five years (2013, 1.238 million). Across NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, streaming of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs has reached 2.5 million uniques and 411 million live minutes, up 84% and 24%, respectively. The Average Minute Audience is 34,100 viewers. The top market for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs is Pittsburgh with 4.21. The home cities of the two remaining teams were on the list; Las Vegas with 3.17 in second and Washington D.C with 2.11 in sixth.

2017-2018 Premier League Season Draws Large American Crowd
A record 39.3 million Americans watched NBC Sports’ presentation of the Premier League on the networks of NBCUniversal in 2017-18; a season which featured the studio show on the road for the first time on an opening weekend, Manchester City’s record-breaking win streak on the road to an unprecedented 100-point, championship campaign, and the development of a wide range of products, shows, and events to bring U.S. fans closer to the game. The record reach of 39.3 million total viewers for the 2017-18 Premier League season – which concluded on Sunday, May 13 – marks an increase of 14% over last season (34.5 million), according to live plus same day data released by Nielsen.

NBC Sports Group’s presentation of Manchester United’s 3-2 victory over Manchester City in the Manchester Derby on Saturday, April 7, averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 1.72 million viewers across all platforms – NBC, NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app, and Telemundo – to rank as the most-watched Premier League match in U.S. history.

The company averaged a Total Audience Delivery of 449,000 viewers per match window across – up from last season (447,000), according to live plus same day data from Nielsen, and digital data from Adobe Analytics (does not include Spanish-language telecasts or NBC Sports Gold streaming).

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app delivered a record 4.0 million uniques and 740 million live minutes, second-most all-time, during the 2017-18 season. In addition, five of the 10 most-streamed Premier League matches in the U.S. took place in 2017-18.

The top spot in local market ratings for NBC/NBCSN went to Baltimore, but with NBC alone, there was a tie between New Orleans and Providence.

YES Network Achieves Historic Ratings in May
Since May 1, YES’ Yankees games are averaging a 4.58 TV Household rating, up 23% from YES’ 2018 Yankees ratings through April 30 (a 3.71 TV Household average rating). Additionally, the postgame show is averaging a 1.95 TV Household rating, up 46% from YES’ 2018 Post-Game Show ratings through April 30 (a 1.34 average). Saturday’s regular season A’s-Yankees game was YES’ highest-rated weekend telecast in five years, generating a 4.97 average TV Household rating. Each of the final six quarter hours of Saturday’s extra-innings telecast averaged a 6.0 TV Household rating or better. The Yankees Postgame Show averaged a 2.94 TV Household rating, YES’ best Post-Game Show rating since September 25, 2014 (Jeter Stadium Finale – 3.68 average TV Household rating), and the best weekend Post-Game Show since July 10, 2011 (3.18 average TV Household rating).

NBC’s Sunday Night Football Continues Primetime Success
With the 2017-18 TV season wrapping up tonight, NBC’s Sunday Night Football finishes as primetime’s #1 TV show in all key metrics for an the seventh consecutive year – breaking a tie with American Idol for the most consecutive years atop the charts (since 1950), based on live plus same day data provided by Nielsen. Sunday Night Football also ranked as the No. 1 show in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic for the eighth consecutive TV season. The telecast averaged 18.2 million TV viewers in 2017, which topped the #2 primetime show by 29% — marking the most dominant season in NBC SNF history (since 2006 debut). It also averaged a 10.3/19 household rating in posting the series’ largest-ever advantage (20%) over primetime’s #2 show.

Top Rank Boxing in 2018
The Linares vs. Lomanchenko main event on May 12 drew a 1.0 metered market rating, making the bout cable television’s highest-rated fight of 2018, according to Nielsen overnight data. In the process, the entire Top Rank Boxing on ESPN telecast was the company’s highest-rated Top Rank telecast of the year with a 1.0 metered market rating. Main markets tuning in for last night’s event included Norfolk, VA; Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans and Columbus, OH.  The telecast peaked during the final two-quarter hours with a 1.1 metered market rating.

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