1:57pm PT by Michael O'Connell
Kings' Stanley Cup Dominance Stalls Ratings Growth
With no overtime and a decisive early lead for the Los Angeles Kings, Monday's 3-0 victory over the New York Rangers predictably saw the most modest ratings yet for the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals.
The first game of the championship series to air on cable net NBC Sports Network, Game 3 averaged 2.9 million viewers on Monday night. That's down from the first two matchups in Los Angeles, which pulled in a respective 4.8 million and 6.4 million viewers on NBC -- the latter being an all-time Game 2 record.
It's the smallest haul for a Stanley Cup Final game since Game 4 in 2012. NBCSN, available in roughly 85 million homes, typically brings in fewer viewers than its broadcast sibling.
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One place where interest has not flagged is Los Angeles. The nation's No. 2 market seems considerably more interested in hockey than it was the last time its hometown team made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. After pulling a 7.1 rating with households during the first game, L.A.-area ratings jumped to an 8.9 in Game 2. Aside from Game 6 in the 2012 final, in which the Kings secured the championship, that's the highest NHL rating the market has ever produced. (Game 3's East Coast venue, and the considerable early lead for the Kings, saw local ratings drop to a 6.4.)
Still, interest is greater in New York, where the Rangers now face the daunting task of winning four straight games to take home the Stanley Cup. Monday's game averaged an 8.0 rating with households in the city.
Wednesday finds the Kings facing the Rangers again at Madison Square Garden. And with the outcome potentially securing a second Stanley Cup in three years (and ever) for Los Angeles, ratings will no doubt tick back up.
NBC Sports is likely hoping for a little more steam in the series. The 2013 final, which went to Game 6, brought in 8.2 million viewers with the hockey-loving towns Chicago and Boston vying for the title. And with no scheduling conflict between the NHL and the ongoing NBA Finals, no other sports in the upcoming week threaten to cannibalize the hockey audience.