Odds predictions: Stanley Cup match 6 and up
Predictions and odds analysis for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals and more. Viewership for the Stanley Cup Final slightly exceeds 2019, but how long will that stay the case? Plus, predictions for NASCAR’s NBC season debut and Men’s College World Series.
Can the Stanley Cup Final continue to overtake 2019?
The NHL’s ratings this season have been determined as much by the league’s new media rights contract as anything else. The regular season was not a draw, due to a shortage of nationally televised games. The first three rounds of the playoffs aired exclusively on cable and were therefore the most-watched ever on cable, but the lack of games on the broadcast network brought the average viewership slightly below 2019. Now, the first Stanley Cup Finals ever to air entirely on broadcast television tends to hit a four-year high, slightly topping a 2019 series that — although a stronger draw in almost every way — saw its average pulled down by two games on NBCSN.
Indeed, Avalanche-Lightning not only ranks as the most-watched Cup final in four years (a distinction that isn’t too impressive considering the past two years), but also the second-most-watched in seven and the sixth most viewed since owners. ‘ disastrous lockout of 2004-2005. Such is the benefit of avoiding the contractually mandated pair of cable games that were inevitably the least-watched of previous series.
Schedule changes can only go so far in a best-of-seven series and it seems doubtful that this year’s finale can maintain its slim 1% lead over 2019, a series that lasted seven and peaked with the most modern-era NHL mainstream. Sunday’s unexpected Game 6 should help, but even with a Game 7, it seems inevitable that this series will fall off that 2019 pace. No shame in losing to the Blues-Bruins, but where will this series end up ranking?
In the current era, just about any viewership number can look pretty good. A competitive NBA Finals involving Stephen Curry just on average fewer viewers than Spurs-Pistons in 2005 and there is no panic at NBA or ESPN headquarters. After the last two years, the bar of success is no longer what it used to be. If the Avalanche close things out on Sunday night, it seems likely that this Cup Final will end in the four-million average, ranking near the middle of the pack in the last 20 Finals. In this era, what is mediocre for live sports is unmatched by anything else on TV.
Game 6 should be the most-watched of the series, but don’t count on an audience equal to the 6.47 million Bruins-Blues scored in 19 or the 6.99 million Penguins-Predators drew in 17.
NHL Stanley Cup Final Game 6: Avalanche-Lightning (8p Sun ABC). Prediction: 3.1, 5.38M.
Will NASCAR maintain its ratings gains in the NBC portion of the season?
NASCAR begins the NBC portion of its season this weekend with a rare Sunday night race from Nashville. Viewership for the FOX portion of the season was up 6% from last year and nearly matching 2019, which is no small feat considering the drop in TV viewing ( even with the exterior placing an asterisk on all comparisons to 2019 or previous years).
Once upon a time, NASCAR was the darling of the sports world, just as Formula 1 is today. Although those days are long gone, it’s worth noting that the Cup Series is still easily the most-watched motorsport circuit on American television. NASCAR’s average audience of 3.7 million viewers nearly triples that of F1 (1.3 million), with the obvious caveat that F1 races are shown at night and early in the morning and mostly on cable . Even so, as F1 nears a new media rights deal with ESPN worth $75-90m, it should not be forgotten that NASCAR – which is currently earning a rights fee almost ten times higher ($820 million/year) – is just on another level. This may not remain the case long term; several F1 races this season have outperformed NASCAR Cup Series races that started later in the major young adult demographics of 18-34 and 18-49. Nevertheless, this is the case for the moment and in the near future.
Last year, Nashville’s inaugural race averaged a 1.5 rating and 2.49 million viewers on NBCSN. The move to TV broadcasting will no doubt increase those numbers significantly, especially given the time slot. As anyone who follows the NFL ratings knows, late Sunday afternoon and evening are arguably a stronger window than Sunday evening.
NASCAR Cup Series: Nashville (5p Sun NBC). Prediction: 2.2, 3.72m.
Will a new weekend schedule lift the CWS Men’s Finals?
Viewership for the men’s College World Series grew 17% in the best-of-three final and the lead over last year is only expected to grow. Under a new weekend scheduling format, this year’s final started on Saturday, continues on Sunday and could conclude with a win-win match 3 on Monday. These weekend slots, particularly Game 2 on Sunday afternoon, could be a boon to viewership over the previous Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday schedule.
It goes without saying that Game 1 will end with a big raise; last year’s opener aired on ESPN2 due to the NBA playoffs and averaged less than 500,000 viewers. How will match 2 go? Last year’s game averaged 1.41 million and 2019’s game averaged 1.96 million, both Tuesday nights. In the same Sunday afternoon window last week, Texas-Texas A&M pulled in just under 1.2 million, and that was with no title on the line. Expect viewership numbers to comfortably exceed l last year and may be approaching the 2019 figure.
Additionally, look for the male CWS to surpass Sunday night baseball for a second consecutive week. Last weekend, Notre Dame-Oklahoma averaged more viewers on ESPN2 than the Astros-White Sox in the same window on ESPN. This weekend, Oklahoma-Mississippi should have no trouble overtaking their Dodgers-Braves lead.
Men’s College World Series: Oklahoma-Mississippi Game 2 (3p Sun ESPN). Prediction: 1.1, 1.88M.
MLB Sunday Night Baseball: Dodgers-Braves (7p Sun ESPN). Prediction: 0.8, 1.42M.
– NBA Finals Game 5: Celtics-Warriors. Prediction: 7.5, 14.2M; results: 7.0, 13.02M.
– NHL Eastern Conference Final, Game 6: Rangers-Lightning. Prediction: 1.4, 2.82M; results: 1.35, 2.84M.
— MLB: mainly Cubs-Yankees. Prediction: 1.3, 2.15M; results: 1.2, 2.10M.
— PGA Tour: last round of the Canadian Open. Prediction: 1.5, 2.52M; 1.8, 2.78M.
— Belmont Stakes, race part. Prediction: 2.8, 4.82M; results: 2.65, 4.72M.