Stanley Cup Final Off to Roaring Start for NBC Sports Group

If Wednesday’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was any sign of things to come for NBC Sports Group this week, the network is in for a treat.

The Los Angeles Kings’ thrilling overtime win over the Rangers averaged 4.777 million viewers, making it NBC’s second-most watched Stanley Cup Final Game 1 ever and the second-most watched Game 1 overall since 1999.

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Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Final Game 1 helped NBC win the night in primetime among P18-49 with a 1.9 rating. Game 2 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

“[I’m in] LA and I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be here for the Stanley Cup Final between two top markets in the country, number one, New York and number two, L.A.,” says NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun seeing these two teams go at it, seeing how they. I’m glad we got a lot of people paying attention to hockey all over the country right now. And we hope that continues in the Final.”

Geographically, the Final presents some challenges, as NBC Sports’ production setups have to be divided into essentially east and west coast divisions. Currently in Los Angeles, NEP Broadcasting’s ND6 is on hand with B-unit ST28. When the series shifts to Madison Square Garden in New York City, NEP’s ND5 will be ready to go with B-unit ST32.

Among the tech highlights, NBC will be using a 4K replay system built around the Evertz Dreamcatcher system. NBC has used the system throughout the playoffs in last year’s Cup Final and provides clear, zoom-in replays that come in handy on close scoring opportunities in the crease.

That 4K technology will also be used during coverage of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, an event that those at NBC Sports hopes serves as a strong lead-in and even greater ratings for Game 2 of this series (7:30 p.m. ET). In fact, Flood stated that when California Chrome secured its win in the Preakness Stakes to set up a Triple Crown hopeful at the Belmont, NBC execs spoke openly with the NHL about scheduling a Cup Final game immediately following the horse race.

“[The Belmont] is a big moment in sports,” says Flood. “It’s a moment that brings people together, a curious audience and a big audience and we think it’s a wonderful way to expose even more people to the Stanley Cup Final. So as soon as Chrome pulled the magic in the Preakness, we started talking with the NHL about a way to take advantage of this opportunity to showcase the sport of hockey and to build on what will be an incredible day of programming on NBC.”