Ben Cafardo: 🏀ESPN had its most-watched first-round of the #NBAPlayoffs since 2014, according to Nielsen. The eight-game slate averaged 3,346,000 viewers, up 28% from last year and up 69% from two years ago.
Zero game sevens, zero Brooklyn wins and zero L.A. teams, yet the first round of the NBA Playoffs still hit a four-year viewership high. The first round of the NBA Playoffs averaged 3.49 million viewers across ABC, ESPN and TNT, the highest first round average on the networks since 2018 (3.75M). Viewership increased 12% from last year (3.13M), 66% from the months-delayed “bubble” playoffs two years ago (2.11M), and 17% from 2019 — the previous postseason to begin as normal in the month of April (2.98M).
The cable rankings were lead by ESPN’s coverage of Saturday’s first-round NBA playoff game between the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets, which averaged 4.624 million viewers, 22nd overall and the most for a prime-time sporting event. NBA playoff coverage sent TNT to the top of the cable network race, averaging 2.622 million viewers, one week after finishing second.
ESPN was third for the second consecutive week, averaging 1.325 million. The cable top 20 consisted of 13 NBA playoff games — 10 on TNT and three on ESPN; six Fox News Channel political talk shows — five broadcasts of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and one of “Hannity”; and History’s “The Curse of Oak Island.”
NBA Communications: The four-game series between the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets averaged 4.8M viewers across ABC, ESPN and TNT, making it the most-viewed first-round NBA playoff series since 2016 (Warriors/Rockets) and most-viewed Eastern Conference first-round series since 2012 (Heat/Knicks).
It is rare that a first round sweep qualifies as a ratings hit, but Celtics-Nets ranks as easily the strongest draw thus far of a resurgent NBA Playoffs. Saturday’s Celtics-Nets first round NBA playoff Game 3 averaged a 2.5 rating and 4.62 million viewers on ESPN, peaking at 5.88 million — marking the network’s most-watched first round playoff game in 12 years (2010 Lakers-Thunder Game 6: 4.83M). Monday’s clinching Game 4 averaged 3.83 million on TNT, the least-watched game of the series but still the eighth-largest audience of this year’s postseason.
NBA playoff viewership continues to run well ahead of the past three years. Coverage of the NBA Playoffs has averaged 3.6 million viewers across ESPN, ABC and TNT through Thursday, up 23% from last year and up 29% from 2019, the previous postseason to begin in the month of April (2.80M). Viewership is also up 102% from the months-delayed postseason two years ago. Of the 19 game windows that can be compared to 2019, all-but-two have posted an increase in viewership. While out-of-home viewing was not included in the 2019 numbers, out-of-home alone is unlikely to explain a nearly 30 percent increase.
Brian Mahoney: NBA had its most-viewed opening weekend of the playoffs since 2011. Nets-Celtics was most-viewed game in first round since 2016. TNT had its best opening day since 2018, topped by average of 4.8 million viewers for Bulls-Bucks.
Mike McGraw: TNT says Bulls-Bucks Game 1 was its most-watch first-round game since 2018; was most viewed cable show of the day.
The first 82-game NBA season in three years was the most-watched NBA season in three years. The NBA regular season averaged 1.6 million viewers across ABC, ESPN and TNT, up 19% from last year’s delayed, shortened season and up 3% from the 2019-20 campaign that was halted in mid-March and resumed in a “bubble” four months later. As previously noted, ABC averaged 3.03 million for its 19-game package, up 13% from last season. ESPN and TNT both averaged 1.4 million, up 17% and 13% respectively. Averages for NBA TV were not disclosed, but the network is said to have had its most-watched season since 2017-18.
ABC averaged 3.03 million viewers for its 19-game NBA regular season schedule, up 13% from last year and up 3% from two seasons ago. Its season finale, Nuggets-Lakers last Sunday, drew a 1.7 rating and 2.89 million — up 75% in ratings and as much as 64% in viewership from Lakers-Clippers on the same Sunday last year (1.0, 1.76M*) and comfortably ahead of its more meaningful Mavericks-Bucks lead-in (1.2, 2.11M). Despite the Lakers’ elimination from the playoffs and the absence of LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis, Lakers-Warriors averaged 1.64 million on TNT Thursday — up as much as 45% from Suns-Clippers last year (1.13M*). Celtics-Bucks drew a 0.8 (+36%) and 1.35 million (+35%*) earlier in the night.
ABC finished its slate of NBA regular-season games with viewership up from each of the past two seasons. The network, with a combo of Saturday primetime and Sunday afternoon games (plus Christmas Day), averaged 3.03 million viewers this season, up 13% from 2.68 million viewers last year, and up 3% from 2.95 million in ’19-20. Three seasons ago, ABC averaged 3.58 million.
Despite the absence of Stephen Curry, Wednesday’s Suns-Warriors NBA regular season game averaged 1.69 million viewers on ESPN — up as much as 68% from Nets-Jazz last year (1.01M*). It was preceded by Heat-Celtics at 1.38 million, up as much as 39% (vs. Celtics-Bucks: 990K*). Ratings were not immediately available. On Thursday, TNT drew a 0.9 rating and 1.53 million viewers for Bucks-Nets, up 72% in ratings and as much as 85% in viewership (vs. Blazers-Heat: 0.54, 826K*). Lakers-Jazz followed at 1.28 million, up as much as 18% (vs. Sixers-Lakers: 1.08M*).
ESPN averaged 1.52 million viewers for Sixers-Lakers and 1.40 million for Nets-Grizzlies on the latest edition of NBA Wednesday, up as much as 32 and 51 percent respectively from last year’s equivalent doubleheader (Clippers-Mavericks: 1.15M; Bucks-Sixers: 931K, pending revision). The previous night, TNT drew 1.01 million for Hawks-Knicks and 979,000 for Clippers-Nuggets, down slightly from last year (Jazz-Celtics: 1.03M; Pelicans-Blazers: 983K, pending revision).
Thursday’s Nets-Sixers NBA regular season game, which marked the teams’ first game since the James Harden for Ben Simmons trade last month, averaged 2.49 million viewers on TNT — the network’s largest regular season audience outside of Opening Night since Lakers-Bucks in December 2019 (2.78M). Brooklyn’s blowout win delivered the third-largest cable audience of the season behind Warriors-Lakers on TNT Opening Night (3.39M) and Hawks-Knicks on ESPN Christmas Day (2.92M).
Even after all these years, there is no better NBA ratings combo than LeBron James against Stephen Curry. Warriors-Lakers averaged a 1.8 rating and 3.34 million viewers on the latest edition of ABC’s NBA Saturday Primetime, marking the third-largest audience of the season outside of Christmas. The three Warriors-Lakers games this season rank as the three most-watched outside of Christmas, with their Opening Night matchup on TNT ranking second (1.9, 3.39M) and their February 12 game on ABC first (1.9, 3.61M).
Alex Kennedy: Which markets have delivered the highest ratings for national NBA games across ABC, ESPN and TNT this season? 1. New Orleans 2. San Francisco 3. Memphis 4. Raleigh-Durham 5. Sacramento 6. Los Angeles 7. Atlanta 8. Norfolk 9. Birmingham 10. Richmond basketballnews.com/stories/tv-mar…
Despite far better circumstances than a year ago, NBA All-Star weekend failed to bounce back in the ratings. Last Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game averaged a 3.1 rating and 6.28 million viewers across TNT and TBS, tying last year as the lowest rated edition of the game. Keep in mind last year’s All-Star Game was scheduled at the last minute (against many players’ wishes), played in front of a limited capacity crowd, featured none of the usual lead-up events, and aired opposite a ballyhooed celebrity interview on CBS.
Ky Carlin: Last night’s game was the highest-rated 76ers regular season game on NBCSP/NBCSP Plus since 2001. Including postseason games on the network, it tied the third highest-rated 76ers game on record. #Sixers
According to Bally Sports Ohio, which holds the Cavs' television rights, ratings for the team's games are up 78 percent at the NBA All-Star break compared to last season's ratings. Adjusted for the same number of games -- 58 -- the team's ratings are up 65 percent this season.
Last weekend’s Lakers-Warriors NBA Saturday Primetime game on ABC averaged a 1.9 rating and 3.61 million viewers, marking the largest NBA audience of the season outside of Christmas. Including Christmas games, it ranks fourth. Golden State’s narrow win — which increased 29% in ratings from Nets-Warriors on the same weekend last year (1.5, 2.56M) — ranks as the most-watched Saturday Primetime game since Warriors-Sixers in March 2019 (3.63M).
The NBA has seen a spike in viewership in Brazil, Australia and the Philippines, demonstrating that the league’s efforts to grow the game outside of North America is bearing fruit. In Brazil, National Basketball Association games this season are drawing a 16% larger average audience compared to last season, rising to fourth among countries outside the United States in largest total audience, the league said.
Australia has seen a 35% larger average audience compared to last season, including a 27% jump in viewership for the NBA’s Christmas day suite of games. The league’s opening night roster featured eight Australian players including veteran guard Patty Mills and rising star Josh Giddey, who are driving interest in their home country. The NBA has also enjoyed growth in viewership and on social media in the Philippines. The NBA’s Facebook page has more than 8.5 million followers from the Philippines, the No. 1 country outside the United States.
Nets-Warriors averaged a 1.8 rating and 3.17 million viewers on ABC’s NBA Saturday Primetime last weekend, marking the most-watched edition of the series since Warriors-Sixers in 2019 (3.63M). Golden State’s win, which peaked with 4.31 million viewers, increased 17% in ratings and 16% in viewership from Lakers-Celtics last year (1.6, 2.74M) and 69% and 91% respectively from Sixers-Celtics two years ago (1.1, 1.66M).
With the NFL taking over primetime on Martin Luther King Day, TNT failed to crack the one million viewer mark for either of its matinee games — averaging 707,000 for Bulls-Grizzlies and 908,000 for Bucks-Hawks. Viewership declined 3% and 57% respectively from the equivalent windows last MLK Day (Suns-Grizzlies: 727K; Bucks-Nets: 2.11M).
Eight of the first ten NBA games on ESPN and TNT in 2022 have increased from last year, including seven by double-digits — Warriors-Mavericks on ESPN January 5 (1.69M, +78%), Nets-Bulls on ESPN Wednesday (1.56M, +58%), the Bucks’ rout of the Warriors on TNT Thursday (1.41M, +34%), the Bucks’ rout of the Nets on ESPN January 7 (1.50M, +28%), Clippers-Suns on TNT January 6 (1.16M, +17%), the Knicks’ buzzer-beating win over the Celtics earlier that night (1.28M, +13%) and Hawks-Lakers on ESPN January 7 — the most-watched game of the calendar year so far (1.77M, +11%).
Put another way, the NBA made the top 25 in 2017 and four years later, is totally out of the top 100. It gets even worse when we rewind back another year. In 2016, the NBA had eight games in the top 25. So, within five years, the NBA went from eight games in the top 25 most viewed to ZERO in the top 100. Additionally, in 2016, the NBA claimed 12 of the top 50 spots. So, you’re going from over one-fifth of the top 50 to zip, zero, nada of the top 100. That’s a huge drop, and it defies any, “all sports have suffered of late,” hand waving. Yet, nobody associated with the NBA seems all that concerned about the sport’s financial state, at least publicly. That’s why a story like this causes hardly a ripple:
The Nets, without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving or Joe Harris, played on national television Christmas Day and came away with a big win over the Lakers at the newly minted Crypto.com Center ... and a big audience nationally. A total of 5.75 million basketball fans watched on ABC, the most of any of the five holiday games Saturday, per Nielsen, the ratings service. The numbers were down from the last two years of Christmas viewing, what with COVID ravaging NBA rosters and the cross-scheduling of games vs. the NFL.
Tuesday’s Pacers-Heat NBA regular season game — which was originally scheduled for TNT, dropped in favor of Wizards-Nets, and then moved back to TNT after Wizards-Nets was postponed — averaged just 393,000 viewers opposite rescheduled NFL games Tuesday night, marking the least-watched NBA game on ESPN, ABC or TNT since ESPN drew just 377,000 for Bulls-Grizzlies opposite a rescheduled NFL playoff game in 2017.
Jabari Young: Behind the scenes, media pundits I spoke with a bit surprised ESPN didn’t flip #Warriors #Suns to 8PM Reason: with #NBA Covid outbreaks, that game appears to be the better matchup… so don’t put it up against #NFL #Packers #Browns … but the hope is #Nets get guys back by Sat.
NBA regular season games were averaging 1.59 million viewers across ESPN, ABC and TNT through last Wednesday, up 11% from the comparable period in 2019 (1.44M*). Last Tuesday’s Warriors-Knicks game, in which Golden State G Stephen Curry set the all-time three-point shooting record, averaged a 1.4 rating and 2.35 million viewers on TNT — the fourth-largest audience of the season. Golden State has now played in each of the five most-watched games, six of the top seven and eight of the top ten.
In the NBA’s earliest game on broadcast television in 20 years, Stephen Curry and the Warriors helped ABC’s NBA Saturday Primetime to a multiyear high. Warriors-Sixers averaged a 1.7 rating and 3.07 million viewers in the season premiere of ABC’s NBA Saturday Primetime, marking the largest audience for the network’s Saturday night series since the same matchup in March 2019 (3.63M). Philadelphia’s win, which peaked with 3.55 million from 10:45-11 PM ET, ranks as ABC’s most-watched regular season game outside of Christmas since Lakers-Clippers on March 8, 2020 — three days before the NBA postponed its season (3.62M).
JD Shaw: The Warriors-Knicks game on TNT last night — where Stephen Curry broke the NBA’s all-time three-point record — averaged 2.35 million viewers. To compare, TNT, ABC and ESPN are averaging 1.59 million viewers this season.
NBA viewership is trending above two years ago thanks in large part to the resurgent Golden State Warriors. NBA regular season games are averaging 1.55 million viewers so far this season, up 8% from the comparable point two years ago. At the same point last year, the season had not yet begun. Tuesday’s Warriors-Suns game, a matchup of the league’s two best records, averaged 2.38 million viewers on TNT — the second-largest audience of the season behind Warriors-Lakers on Opening Night (3.39M). Golden State has now played in the top three, four of the top five, five of the top seven and six of the top nine games this season.
Mark Medina: You usually don't see the Lakers getting swapped out of national TV games. But here it is. On Friday, ESPN will now broadcast the Warriors-Suns game instead of the Lakers-Clippers game
JD Shaw: From the NBA: Games televised on TNT and ESPN have averaged 1.55 million viewers this season. This is up 29% from 2020-21 and 8% from 2019-20. pic.twitter.com/ju849GiFTH
TNT averaged a 1.0 rating and 1.74 million viewers for last Tuesday’s Lakers-Knicks NBA regular season game, marking the eighth-largest audience of the season thus far. The sub-.500 Lakers have played in four of the nine most-watched games through Tuesday, matching the Warriors as the most of any team.
Ben Cafardo: Friday’s #Lakers v #Celtics ESPN telecast peaked w/ 2,149,000 viewers and averaged 1,735,000 viewers, according to Nielsen. It is ESPN’s most-watched NBA game since it’s season-opener (Knicks-Celtics). Handily won key demos across cable, including Male & People 18-34, 18-49.
NBA games are averaging 1.5 million viewers across ESPN and TNT to date, up 7% from the same point two seasons ago (1.41 million), when the league started on time. Games are down 3% from the start to last season, which began just before Christmas (1.54 million boosted by some Christmas Day games).
The return of the Warriors to prominence (12-2 and leading the Western Conference) is one factor driving audience numbers higher. The team has played in three of the top five games to date across ESPN and TNT. Two seasons ago, when the team was ravaged by injuries, ESPN alone had to flex out at least eight Warriors games from its schedule over the course of the season.
After two years in the cellar, the Warriors’ return to contention is lifting NBA ratings. Tuesday’s Warriors-Nets NBA regular season game averaged a 1.4 rating and 2.29 million viewers on TNT, trailing only Warriors-Lakers on Opening Night (1.9, 3.39M) as the highest rated and most-watched game of the season.
Richard Deitsch: Turner says its NBA game coverage on TNT is averaging 1.6 million viewers this season up 31% vs. last year’s regular season average and up 16% through same number of games in 2019-20. Inside the NBA is up 42 percent in viewership over last year and up 7% vs. 2019-20.
Nets Daily: From @Brian Lewis: Nets ratings on YES were up 3% entering Friday night in an apples-to-apples comparison to the analogous date in pre-pandemic 2019-20 season. YES broadcasts averaging 62,000 viewers this season, up from 60,000 two years ago ... and 27,000 five years ago.
ESPN said Thursday that it is averaging 1.44 million viewers for NBA games this season, up 20% from last year’s full season average (1.20M), with the caveat that three weeks and a full season are not an apples-to-apples comparison. A direct comparison to last year’s first three weeks (December into January) or the first three weeks two years ago (October into November) was not immediately available.
Wednesday’s Hornets-Warriors NBA regular season game averaged 1.76 million viewers on ESPN, up 37% from Bucks-Clippers in 2019 (1.29M) and the fifth-largest audience of the young season. Golden State has played in three of the top six games thus far, more than any other team. Ratings were not immediately available. Earlier in the night, Hawks-Nets drew a 0.8 rating and 1.3 million — down 20% and 13% respectively from Warriors-Rockets in ’19 (1.0, 1.49M).
Tuesday’s Sixers-Knicks NBA regular season game averaged 1.43 million viewers on TNT, up 71% from Bucks-Heat on the comparable night of last season, which began in December (837K). Compared to the previous traditional season two years ago, viewership increased 117% from Heat-Hawks on a Thursday night opposite the NFL (658K). TNT this season is shifting its NBA doubleheaders from Thursdays to Tuesdays to avoid the NFL.
In other action, last Friday’s Suns-Lakers game drew a 1.1 rating and 2.09 million viewers on ESPN — down a tick in ratings but up 17% in viewership from Jazz-Lakers in ’19 (1.2, 1.78M). Nets-Sixers drew a 0.9 (+29%) and 1.68 million (+52%) earlier in the night. ESPN averaged 1.82 million viewers for its Opening Week NBA doubleheaders, up 18% from 2019 and up 3% from 2018. Last year’s Opening Week slate included Christmas Day games.
ESPN had its most-watched opening week of the NBA regular season since 2017, averaging 1,817,000 viewers. The ratings are up 18 percent from 2019, three percent from 2018 and 46 percent from 2020's single-game opener.
ESPN aired its most-watched season-opening NBA doubleheader in four years Wednesday, averaging 1.74 million viewers for Celtics-Knicks and Nuggets-Suns. In particular, Celtics-Knicks averaged 1.96 million — the network’s top opening game since 2013 (Heat-Nets: 2.45M). The double-overtime thriller, which peaked with 2.87 million from 10:30-10:45 PM ET, actually declined 2% from the comparable window last season, Bucks-Celtics on TNT in late December (2.00M). Compared to the last traditional season two years ago, viewership increased 15% from Celtics-Sixers on ESPN opposite the World Series (1.70M).
Flora ESPN Insights: Celtics vs Knicks ranks as ESPN’s #2 most-viewed Wednesday Opener in 18 years! 18 years ago, the #1 Wednesday Opener featured, um, you guessed it, Knicks (surprise!) vs Magic.
Austin Karp: 1.955 million for Knicks-Celtics ESPN NBA opener last night. Strong considering 5.3 million for Braves-Dodgers head-to-head. ESPN's best opener since Heat-Nets 2013 (see below). Up from 1.7 million for Celts-76ers opener in December 2020 and 1.6 million for Pels-Rockets 2019
Tuesday’s Warriors-Lakers NBA Opening Night game averaged 3.39 million viewers on TNT, up 10% from Clippers-Lakers on opening night of last season, which took place in December (3.08M), but down 6% from Lakers-Clippers two years ago — the previous Opening Night in the month of October (3.58M).
Tuesday’s Kings-Celtics NBA Summer League final averaged 435,000 viewers on ESPN, up 62% from the previous title game in 2019, which aired on ESPN2 (Grizzlies-Timberwolves: 269K), but down 5% from 2019 on ESPN (Blazers-Lakers: 456K). It was not the most-watched game of the Summer League, trailing a Pistons-Rockets game pitting the top two picks in the NBA Draft (520K).
On paper, ABC’s 5 p.m. ET Warriors-Suns showcase looks awfully sweet, as it features a meeting between point guards extraordinaire Steph Curry and Chris Paul. Golden State will be in the midst of a bid to return to the postseason after a two-year layoff, during which Klay Thompson was benched with various leg ailments. The Suns, meanwhile, are still smarting from their 4-2 loss to the Bucks in the NBA Finals; all things being equal, this is the sort of pairing that should draw as many as 9 million viewers. Unfortunately for ABC, the Golden State-Phoenix broadcast airs directly opposite Fox’s coverage of a Packers-Browns game in which Aaron Rodgers will suit up against Baker Mayfield. The grizzled-vet-versus-cocky-upstart trope generally makes for good TV, and seeing as how Green Bay has long been one of the NFL’s top draws, Fox is likely to pull a Grinch on ABC.
A showdown between the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers will highlight the NBA's Christmas Day schedule, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. In addition to the star-studded, cross-coast clash, the Atlanta Hawks will travel to take on the New York Knicks. That game will be a rematch of a first-round playoff series that saw Trae Young become a Madison Square Garden villain while the Hawks eliminated the Knicks in five games.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Plenty of discuss on The Jump at 3 PM ET today with unveiling of Christmas Day games, including, sources say: Trae Young and Atlanta Hawks returning to play the New York Knicks at MSG. Plus, battle of the East-West titans: The Brooklyn Nets vs. the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples.
Gaining broadcast network exposure for the first time, the NBA Draft managed a modest bump over last year’s low despite competition from the Summer Olympics. Airing opposite the Summer Olympics, Thursday’s NBA Draft averaged 2.26 million viewers across ESPN and ABC — up 6% from last year, when the event took place in November (2.13M), but down 27% from 2019, when Zion Williamson went #1 overall and the event took place in June (3.09M). Coverage aired on ESPN and ESPNU in those years.
While the average number of comments made per day in 2021 was the highest on record, the peaks (which almost always occur during the postseason) were actually the lowest since 2016. That’s surprising because r/nba has more than quadrupled its subscriber base since then. What I like about this approach is that it’s capturing NBA interest (or lack thereof) from a younger, more technologically-savvy fanbase. I think the criticism most people have with using television ratings to measure fan interest is that younger fans aren’t watching games on TV — they’re streaming it or just following it closely on social media. This analysis shows that even among the fans least likely to be captured by traditional television ratings, interest in the biggest NBA games appears to be down.
The NBA Finals, taking place in July for the first time, averaged 9.9 million viewers, representing the fourth-lowest figure this century, as noted Monday by my Axios counterpart Kendall Baker. The only three Finals to pull in smaller audiences were last season’s Finals from the Walt Disney World bubble (Lakers vs. Heat) that were staged much later than usual in October, 2007 (Spurs vs. Cavaliers) and 2003 (Spurs vs. Nets). The league has long maintained that such audience measures are incomplete, since they roughly account for only 10% of international markets and do not include figures from social media platforms or its League Pass streaming service.
Giannis Antetekounmpo’s 50-point effort, which snapped the Milwaukee Bucks’ 50-year drought, posted a 50 percent increase in viewership over last year. Tuesday’s Suns-Bucks NBA Finals Game 6 averaged a 6.6 rating and 12.52 million viewers on ABC, up 57% in ratings and 50% in viewership from Lakers-Heat in the “bubble” last October, which aired opposite Sunday Night Football (4.2, 8.37M), but down 38% and 33% respectively from Raptors-Warriors in June 2019 (10.7, 18.76M).
According to Nielsen, the NBA and ABC on Wednesday, the six-game series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns averaged 9.91 million viewers, a 32% increase over last year's series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, which also went six games. However, the average makes it the fourth-lowest since 1997. The Lakers-Heat series -- which was played in October in the bubble in Orlando, Florida, after the coronavirus pandemic pushed the season back five months -- averaged only 7.45 million.
Excluding football games, Game 6 also averaged the fifth-largest sports audience since the wave of cancellations and postponements that decimated the industry in March of last year. It trails only Game 6 of last year’s World Series (6.8, 12.70M), this year’s Kentucky Derby (7.1, 14.37M), and the final two games of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (Gonzaga-UCLA: 7.6, 14.94M; Baylor-Gonzaga: 9.4, 16.92M).
Alex Kennedy: Game 6 of the NBA Finals had 12.52 million viewers, up 50% from 2020. Viewership peaked at 16.54 million. Viewership of the playoffs was up 35% vs. 2020, with 4.25 million average. This is the highest share of households with TVs on tuning into the NBA playoffs since 2002 (7.1).
After a series (and post-hiatus) high in Game 4, a Saturday night Game 5 of the NBA Finals slipped back under the ten million mark. Saturday’s Bucks-Suns NBA Finals Game 5 averaged a 4.8 rating and 9.62 million viewers on ABC, flat in ratings and up a modest 7% viewership from Heat-Lakers last October, a potential title-clincher and the most-watched game in the “bubble” (4.8, 8.96M), and down a sharp 55% and 48% respectively from Warriors-Raptors in June 2019, another potential clincher in which Kevin Durant returned from injury only to tear his Achilles (10.6, 18.60M).
Alex Kennedy: Viewership of Game 4 of the NBA Finals was up 35% from last year, per Nielsen. The ABC broadcast averaged 10,254,000 viewers, peaking with 12,559,000 viewers from 11:15-11:30 p.m. ET. Through four games, the 2021 NBA Finals is averaging 9,311,000 viewers, up 34% from last year.
According to Standard Media Index data, ABC booked $250.7 million in ad sales during the Raptors-Warriors sextet in 2019, a benchmark that appears to be within reach this time around. The cost of 30 seconds of in-game airtime is up near $600,000 a pop at the high end, and given the inevitable rate increases that accompany the higher ratings of a sixth game, the network is now playing with house money.
If 20 million viewers for the sixth broadcast of Bucks-Suns is likely out of reach—the audience would have to more than double (+122%) in size between Game 3 and Game 6, which is something that has happened exactly never—that figure is well within reach if a seventh game is required. That sort of turnout will not only keep ABC from being buried under a pile of make-goods, but it would also go a long way toward drowning out a lot of the chatter about the NBA’s waning popularity.
Back in the States, where soccer is still not exactly what anyone would call a matter of life and death, the TV audience was anything but insignificant. Not only did the Italy-England match deliver more viewers than each game of NBC Sports’ coverage of the Stanley Cup Final, but it also handily out-delivered nearly every game of the 2020-21 NBA season. Per Nielsen, only the Christmas Day Mavs-Lakers broadcast, two playoff outings and the three NBA Finals games have put up bigger numbers than Sunday’s overseas soccer showdown. For the sake of context, the two conference semifinals telecasts (Bucks-Nets, Hawks-Sixers) were both Game 7s.
Television viewers in the Bucks home market are watching the NBA Finals games against the Phoenix Suns in ever-increasing numbers that Sunday night reached nearly 273,000 households. The peak viewership represented nearly 33% of all households with televisions and about 58% of households watching television Sunday night in southeast Wisconsin.
The average number of southeast Wisconsin households tuning in for Sunday’s game on Milwaukee ABC affiliate WISN-TV (Channel 12) was 221,400. That was the highest average so far of the series compared with an average of 201,300 for the July 8 game and 198,900 for the first game on July 6.
It’s unclear how much AT&T SportsNet will pay the Jazz for the rights to broadcast their games in 2021-22. What is clear, though, is that the rights to broadcast Jazz games are quite valuable. Of the 30 teams in the NBA, the Jazz’s 5.9 average rating on locally broadcast Jazz games this season ranked second, only slightly behind the Golden State Warriors’ 5.96 rating.
In the latest TV ratings, ABC’s coverage of the NBA Finals opener averaged 6.4 million total viewers and a 2.1 rating, down 13 and 18 percent from the preliminary numbers for last year’s Game 1 (which was pandemic-delayed until August) yet still easily topping Tuesday in the demo and expected to report the night’s largest audience once the final numbers trickle in.
A Western Conference Finals few would have expected at the start of the season posted a solid rebound over last year’s “bubble.” The six-game Suns-Clippers NBA Western Conference Finals averaged 5.38 million viewers across ESPN and ABC, up 19% from last fall’s Lakers-Nuggets series in the “bubble” on TNT, but down 29% from Warriors-Blazers on ESPN in 2019. Viewership increased a third from ESPN’s conference final in the “bubble,” Heat-Celtics.
It is no secret that the NBA is becoming an increasingly global league. One way to prove that is the audience tuning in to watch the playoffs. According to research from the NBA obtained by HoopsHype, total viewing consumption among all international markets for the first round of the playoffs in 2021 was up by 13 percent when compared to the first round in 2020.
Streaming numbers also suggest a significant uptick in total international consumption. Global viewership on NBA League Pass is up 22 percent compared to the playoffs in 2020, per the league office, and a 28 percent increased compared to the 2019 postseason.
For example, Italian forward Danillo Gallinari is currently enjoying his first season with the Atlanta Hawks. As a result, the Hawks have been the most-viewed team on SkySpot in Italy, drawing an audience that was 39 percent larger than other teams drew during the first round.
Swiss-born big man Clint Capela, who also plays for the Hawks, might be impacting viewership in his home country as well. Postseason game average unique viewership has increased by 23 percent in Switzerland since last season.
Ben Cafardo: ESPN's #NBAWCF Game 6 drew 5,856,000 viewers, up 64% from ESPN's Conf Finals Game 6 last year (Nielsen). Once again, @espn won the night across all of TV & in all key demos. ESPN & ABC's NBA Conf Finals averaged 5,378,000 viewers, up 32% from Conf Finals on ESPN last year.
Neither the ratings disaster of the “bubble” nor a return to normal, a pair of unexpected, non-traditional NBA conference finals continues to put up respectable numbers. Monday’s Clippers-Suns NBA Western Conference Finals Game 5 averaged 5.74 million viewers on ESPN, up 20% from last year’s clinching Nuggets-Lakers Game 5 in the “bubble” on TNT, which aired on a college football Saturday (4.79M) and the most-watched game of the conference finals thus far. For the postseason, the Clippers’ win ranks third behind a pair of semifinal Game 7s (Bucks-Nets: 6.91M; Hawks-Sixers: 6.16M) and ahead Warriors-Lakers in the Play-in Tournament (5.62M).
Game 5 ranks as the most-watched NBA telecast on ESPN since the clinching Warriors-Blazers Game 4 in the 2019 Western Conference Finals (7.79M), and the network’s top game that did not include the Warriors or LeBron James since a Thunder-Clippers second round game in 2014 (6.40M).
Nets Daily: Huge dropoff in ratings this year for NBA lottery draw. One reason might be the absence of all four teams from the two biggest markets, New York and Los Angeles. That hasn’t been the case in a long long time.
Thursday’s Suns-Clippers NBA Western Conference Finals Game 3 averaged 5.33 million viewers on ESPN, up 10% from Lakers-Nuggets in the “bubble” on TNT last September (4.83M) but down 26% from Warriors-Blazers on ESPN in 2019 (7.25M). The Clippers’ win delivered the largest audience of the conference finals thus far (four telecasts) and ranks fifth for the playoffs (sixth including the Play-in Tournament).
Ben Cafardo: ESPN's coverage of #NBAWCF Game 3 averaged 5,332,000 viewers (Nielsen), up 36% vs ESPN's Conf Finals Game 3 last year (ECF) Game 3 was the most-watched telecast of the night across television and in every key adult and male demo It drew a 14.7 rtg in Phoenix, best since 2010
"If there was any question whether last year's decline was primarily due to the bubble, the fan-less environment, the months-long delay, if there was any question as to whether or not that was true, it's been answered by the fact that the ratings for a postseason where Steph Curry didn't make it to the playoffs and LeBron didn't make it out of the first round are up dramatically from last year, just by default," Sports Media Watch's Jon Lewis, an expert on the subject, told Yahoo Sports. "It's obvious that 99% of why the ratings were so bad was because of the circumstances. Now, were there also people who tuned out because of seeing 'Black Lives Matter' on the court? Maybe, but I can tell you it's painfully obvious that last year's results were primarily because of being in the circumstances that the league found itself late last summer."
That is why you have seen sourced reporting that anticipates a massive increase when the NBA's current media rights deal expires in 2025, like the one from CNBC's Jabari Young in March that set expectations at $75 billion — more than triple the existing package — even amid another regular-season ratings decline. "The value is always rising. You have to think about what that means. What the ratings decline means isn't, 'Oh, my goodness, they're all going to go broke.' That's absurd," added Lewis. "What the ratings decline means is you're going to have to make some sacrifices to get as much money as you want to get. Those sacrifices aren't going to be paying players less. They're probably going to have to put some games on Peacock or ESPN+ or one of these platforms that networks are willing to overpay to get programming for."
The NBA reaches a billion people in more than 215 countries across the world, and roughly three quarters of its viewers are outside the U.S., boosted by the popularity of Antetokounmpo, Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, four of the top six vote-getters in the MVP race. Global viewers on League Pass for the playoffs are up 18% from last year and 24% from 2019, per the NBA. None of them are included in Nielsen ratings.
JD Shaw: Viewership for the playoffs across ABC, TNT and ESPN is up 39% from last season, according to the NBA. More:
Nets Daily: Waiting on Game 7 TV ratings but Games 5 (4.58M viewers) and 6 (4.44M viewers) were among most watched shows on TV those nights. In each case, half million viewers were in New York metro area.
Nets Daily: Tuesday night's Nets-Bucks game was the most watched show on television with 4.58 million viewers nationally. Of that total, 536,000 watched in New York metro area. As one Nets exec told ND, franchise hopes the game was a 'catalyst' to draw young fans to Nets fandom.
August 13, 2022 | 9:32 pm EDT Update
Draymond Green: That’s the power of your voice Young! Let’s goooo! Bring the fam to the crib for dinner after
USA Basketball has picked its 12-man roster for the opening second-round window of World Cup qualifying, as the Americans look to move closer to clinching a spot in the field for next year’s event. Jim Boylen will return as coach, assisted again by Ty Ellis and Othella Harrington.
The roster will include six players — Michael Frazier II, Langston Galloway, David Stockton, DaQuan Jeffries, John Jenkins and Eric Mika — who were with the Americans for the previous qualifying window in July. The other six players for games Aug. 25 in Las Vegas against Uruguay and at Colombia on Aug. 29 are Tyler Cavanaugh, Malik Ellison, Dewan Hernandez, Mac McClung, Robert Woodard II and McKinley Wright IV.
August 13, 2022 | 7:37 pm EDT Update
The Warriors can pass on an extension for Poole if they choose, allowing him to become a restricted free agent next summer. If he gets there, one league executive speculates that we can expect at least one team with cap space to be ready to pounce. “I’d watch out for the Magic to be ready to make an offer if he’s restricted, knowing there’s a good chance Golden State is not going to match,” one Eastern Conference executive told Heavy Sports.
“LeBron James has not done enough as a Laker to be on that list,” Jefferson said. “Bron been there now — this is his fourth season, right? They’ve been in there four seasons. Two years, they haven’t made the postseason. One year, they lost in the first round. And one year, they won a championship.”
Memphis at Golden State is another Christmas Day game on the NBA’s preliminary schedule for the 2022-23 season that is on course to be made official this coming week, league sources tell me. More NBA from me: http://marcstein.Substack.com
August 13, 2022 | 5:50 pm EDT Update
“It was just like a shock, but not too much of a shock,” Will Barton said when asked his reaction to the trade. “It was a shock in that, obviously, I had been there eight years, did so much there together, so it’s always shocking when you’ve been somewhere for so long and you’re moving on. But, at the same time, I embraced it, I’m welcoming a new chapter.”