NBCSN up big with start of conference finals

Jared Wickerham

Chicago-Los Angeles and Boston-Pittsburgh have proven bigger ratings boons for the NHL than last year's New York-New Jersey and L.A.-Phoenix showdowns.

The NHL's Eastern Conference Final likely won't last long, but will still provide the NBC Sports Network with big ratings.

Game 3 of the Boston vs. Pittsburgh series, which was the longest game of the season and ended in double overtime, drew 2.84 million viewers. That marks the most-watched conference final game ever on NBC Sports Network (which includes the histories of OLN and VERSUS), and the most-watched conference final game on cable since May 31, 2002, when the Red Wings played Game 7 against the Avalanche.

The 2.84 million-viewer figure was up 112 percent from the second NBCSN telecast of last year's Eastern Conference Final, between the Devils and Rangers. Overall, the series has averaged 2.94 million viewers in three games between NBC and NBC Sports Network. Through three games last year, the Devils and Rangers had averaged 1.37 million.

Locally, the game was actually down in Boston. Game 3 scored a 21.8 rating, falling short of Game 2's 23.3. In Pittsburgh, the game drew a 22.7, up from Game 2's 19.9, but falling short of Game 1's 23.2. One will imagine that ratings in Pittsburgh go down for a Game 4 in which the Pens can be eliminated.

The Chicago-Los Angeles series has also proved a big boon to the NHL and NBCSN. Games 1-3 have averaged 1.81 million viewers, nearly doubling the 922,000 average for Games 1-3 of the Los Angeles-Phoenix series in 2012. The most-watched game of the series so far was Game 2, which drew 2.02 million viewers. By contrast, the most-watched game of Kings-Coyotes last year was Game 1, which only amassed 1.1 million viewers.

Overall, the conference finals on NBCSN are up 108 percent through five days (2.24 million vs. 1.08 million last year).

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