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NBA Finals, NHL Stanley Cup Final Take Center Stage on ABC in June

ESPN’s Senior Vice President of Content Strategy and Scheduling calls 14-game, 19-day stretch of NBA Finals and NHL Stanley Cup games on ABC a “unique opportunity”

Editor’s Notes: ESPN Senior Vice President Ilan Ben-Hanan leads content strategy and scheduling across all of ESPN’s domestic linear networks and digital platforms, in addition to overseeing the partnership with ABC and its affiliates. As ESPN tips off a nearly three-week stretch tonight on ABC that will feature up to 14 games in 19 days from the 2024 NBA Finals and 2024 NHL Stanley Cup Final, Ben-Hanan discusses the challenging and unique opportunity his team faces programming playoff schedules for both sports over a two-month period.

Video produced by Spencer Jackson, Andrea DiCristoforo, Danny Chi and Bill Hofheimer and Graphic design by Rich Arden.

Managing the NBA and NHL playoff schedules – and all our other commitments this time of year such as the NFL Draft, the start of the WNBA season and various college sports spring championships – is complex. I used to call it a square dance, but after going through it a few times, it feels more like a finely choreographed ballet, trying to make all the pieces fit.

When you’re dealing with building conflicts and shared arenas in places like Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Denver – all of whom have had both their NBA and NHL teams qualify for the playoffs, there’s always something to consider. Ironically, one of the trickiest things we had to work around this year was Billy Joel’s 75th birthday concert to make it all work and hit our priority windows while trying to maximize the audience. It’s not easy, but it’s a fun challenge.

At the start of the playoffs in April, we had the potential to air a combined 100 NBA and NHL playoff games over a two-month stretch on ESPN networks if every series went seven games. Entering the respective Finals, we have aired 71 of 86 games, which represents an unbelievable effort by our ESPN team.

Throughout the playoffs, our crews don’t always know where they’re going or if a game will even be played. Managing that, amid other programming commitments, can be daunting. It requires so many different touch points and coordination across many departments, but if you’re a fan of either or both leagues, it’s like a carnival for these two months. Every day you’ll have one or the other. Often both.

Under our NHL and NBA agreements, years like this are particularly fun when the calendars coincide for both the Stanley Cup Final and the NBA Finals to overlap on ABC. We will have up to 14 championship-level games in a 19-day stretch, which is a unique opportunity.

The ABC affiliates embrace it, as does our Synergy team. This year, we have some great promos featuring ABC shows and personalities, such as Jimmy Kimmel, The Bachelor with Jesse Palmer, American Idol, Abbott Elementary and more, integrated with both the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Final.

We are all very excited about this Finals stretch for both leagues. Our goal is to make these events feel even bigger – both for diehard sports fans who have been watching all season and for more casual fans who will tune in to ABC to see champions crowned from two of the world’s most popular sports leagues.

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