TNT Hopes Its First Stanley Cup Finals Will Maintain Hockey’s Ratings Momentum

Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Florida Panthers makes a save against Jack Eichel #9 of the Vegas Golden Knights during the third period at T-Mobile Arena on January 12, 2023
Sergei Bobrovsky of the Florida Panthers makes a save against Jack Eichelof the Vegas Golden Knights during a January 12 regular-season game. (Image credit: Getty images )

TNT tomorrow (June 3) will drop the puck on its first Stanley Cup Finals with the hope fans will watch the games between the Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers in the same big numbers as they have throughout the NHL playoffs.

The series will be exclusively on cable, with Warner Bros. Discovery-owned TNT, TBS and truTV simulcasting games beginning with Saturday’s Game 1 in Las Vegas. TNT will air the Stanley Cup Finals in three of the seven years covered by the NHL television deal reached in 2021. It alternates with The Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC, which aired last year’s finals. 

Warner Bros. Discovery Sports EVP, chief content officer Craig Barry

WBD Sports chief content officer Craig Barry  (Image credit: WBD Sports)

The NHL hopes to extend to its strong postseason ratings performance thus far. The first three rounds of the NHL playoffs averaged 1.14 million viewers across ESPN, ABC and TNT, up 2% from last season, according to Nielsen numbers reported by SportsMedia Watch.  

Warner Bros. Discovery Sports executive VP and chief content officer Craig Barry said that the company is approaching the Stanley Cup finals with the same “authentic DNA” that it used for its coverage throughout the 2022-23 NHL season, as well as for its NBA regular season and postseason coverage.

“We understand our obligation to the hard-core fan, but more importantly we understand our equal obligation to the casual fan, and that is one of the primary differentiators in our coverage,” he said. “We do that by emphasizing the intersection of sports and culture.”

Barry added that he’s not concerned about hockey fans not being able to find the games on cable, adding that the network’s ratings success will mostly be determined by the play on the ice. 

“In the fragmented media landscape, people are becoming more accustomed to finding their sports and events on different platforms, and fans appreciate the best coverage and experience regardless of network,” he said. “These are two terrific teams who deserve to be in the finals. Like all great series, the success of this Finals will be determined by the competition and the stories that unfold.” 

As for TNT's NBA playoffs coverage, Barry said the network's strong ratings performance benefited from appealing matchups and great storylines throughout the postseason. Overall, TNT’s playoff games averaged 4.7 million viewers, up 14% from last year, according to SportsMedia Watch

TNT's May 29 Game 7 coverage of the Boston Celtics-Miami Heat Eastern Conference Finals averaged 11.9 million viewers, making it the third-most-watched NBA game in TNT history. 

“Sports are most certainly matchup driven, but with the addition of great storylines and unique and special moments within the series, fans become more emotionally attached to the coverage,” Barry said. 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.