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NBA and NHL playoffs: Do-or-die drama is the perfect time for publishers to start DML partnerships

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Hardware defines sports legacies. And the coming months are prime time for emerging legends — with the Larry O'Brien Trophy and the Stanley Cup on the line.

The marathon playoff seasons for pro basketball and hockey hit a dramatic stride in May and culminate in mid-June (for NBA) and early July (for hockey). The audience grows with each progressive round, leaving a significant opportunity for publishers to link up with advertisers and cash in on the heightened engagement period.

An elusive three-peat is possible this year in the NHL, and a pair of former MVPs lead powerhouses on a title hunt in the NBA. Publishers can turn the excitement into increased reader engagement and new advertising prospects through DML sports content solutions.



NBA playoffs open to enormous audience

The opening round of the NBA postseason provided plenty of fireworks, translating to the highest viewing numbers in over a decade.

According to Nielsen: "ESPN and ABC combined for its most-watched opening weekend of the NBA Playoffs in 11 years. The five-game slate across April 16 and April 17 averaged 4,170,000 viewers, up 32% from last year and the most since 2011."

The NBA has also captured crucial demographic targets. SportsMediaWatch states: "NBA games have been television's top show in adults 18-49 and 18-34 each night of the postseason."

The Celtics' sweep of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Nets was the highlight of the first round. But there are plenty of storylines to maintain momentum as we rumble on toward the Finals.

Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has the Milwaukee Bucks flying high with dreams of a repeat title. Another former MVP, Steph Curry, leads the revamped Golden State Warriors squad's return to favorite status. And star duos like the Phoenix Suns' Chris Paul and Devin Booker and the Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid and James Harden are battling to secure their first championship.

Lightning stare down faceoff with NHL history

No team has won three consecutive Stanley Cup championships since the New York Islanders at the beginning of the 1980s. The Tampa Bay Lightning have the chance to change all that. Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman powered the Bolts to the third seed in this year's playoffs. The champs face a stern first-round test in potential MVP Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Elsewhere, the Washington Capitals hope legendary scorer Alex Ovechkin can bounce back from injury and lead another run. Sidney Crosby and the Penguins aim to break a streak of opening-round losses against the second seed, the New York Rangers. And the Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames hope to end Canada's Cup drought before it reaches three decades.

The Lightning's shot at a blooming dynasty will likely give a jolt to hockey's audience count. According to CNBC, last year's Stanley Cup Finals between the Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens averaged 2.52 million viewers. That's an uptick from the 2 million average viewers for the 2020 Finals.

DML collections cover all the NBA and NHL action

Our league-wide NBA and NHL collections are the best products for publications of any size to discover all the benefits of postseason engagement spikes.

These hand-curated collections have everything basketball and hockey fans need to stay in the know. Expert analysis, opinion columns from top voices, predictions, highlights from defining moments, and trending news keep our collections fresh, topical and essential to every level of fandom.

We also offer individual collections for all the active NHL and NBA playoff teams aimed at publications that prefer to focus solely on the teams in their own backyard. These products will give more weight to local newspapers, TV and radio stations in the curation strategy, but will also pull in national outlets’ coverage with a local focus.

Our trending sports collection is another option for smaller outlets. This collection will provide the NBA and NHL playoff news and analysis along with MLB regular season analysis and other top headlines. Trending Sports has a long shelf life and can sustain reader engagement regardless of which sports are in-season.

How to monetize the playoff excitement

Publishers should use the playoffs to secure fresh sponsor relationships, whether it’s grocery stores, restaurants, big-box retailers, car dealerships, furniture stores, sports betting sites, or beer and liquor brands. “Presented by” branding is available for sponsorship of our curated collections. There’s additional display advertising inventory available for a brand within the collection’s content viewer experience. A branded or sponsored content component is also an option, with content placement in the fourth card of our collection. Sports betting guides, tips from sportsbooks, and game day recipes from grocery store chains are possible custom content opportunities. You can see a current example of custom content in our Community Empowerment collection.

We recommend selling impression-based campaigns at $15 retail CPM for our two local sales campaign offerings. The retail rate for share-of-voice campaigns can vary widely based on the size and quality of the publisher's audience. DML charges a $250 floor or a $2 CPM for all collection campaigns, whichever is higher, for managed service fees.

Act now!

The NBA and NHL playoffs are an ideal, long window of opportunity to get started with DML collections. But they don’t last forever. Take us up on our no-risk opportunity for collection embeds. Register to gain access to our Marketplace by clicking the link above. You can have our sports collections on your site with just a few clicks and be one step closer to earning more money for your publication.

For more information, contact me directly at chris@distributedmedialab.com.

Chris Cornell
Dir. Sports & Special Projects
Distributed Media Lab

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