Ratings For NBA Finals Jumped 32% This Year — But Still Well Below Pre-Covid Levels
This year’s NBA Finals averaged just under 10 million viewers, a 32% increase from 2020’s pandemic-induced slump, but the games still drew a far smaller audience than NBA Finals runs in previous years.
The six-game series between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns drew an average of 9.91 million viewers on ABC this month, the NBA said in a statement.
Some 12.52 million Americans watched the Bucks defeat the Suns in game six on Tuesday night, and the series’ other five games ranged from 8.56 million to 10.26 million viewers, according to data from Nielsen.
Ratings for this year’s series easily outpaced 2020, when an average of just 7.5 million people watched the Los Angeles Lakers play the Miami Heat following a season delayed and disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Viewership is still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels: Some 15.1 million people reportedlytuned into the 2019 finals, 17.6 million watched in 2018, 20.4 million watched in 2017 and 20.3 million watched in 2016.
The first five games of this year’s NBA Finals drew higher ratings than any other programs on broadcast television in early July, outpacing America’s Got Talent, the MLB All-Star Game and 60 Minutes, according to Nielsen.
Ratings for most sporting events were extremely low last season, partly because the coronavirus disrupted virtually every professional sports league. Just 7.4 million people tuned into the first game of the 2020 NBA Finals, the Super Bowl posted its smallest audience since 2007 earlier this year, and the MLB experienced its lowest-rated World Series in history. As a result, it’s not surprising that viewership for the NBA Finals rebounded this year. But the series’ ratings still haven’t recovered from their pre-pandemic normal, possibly because streaming services have led to more competition for viewers’ attention, and Lebron James and Steph Curry — both of whom are massive ratings draws — were absent fromthis year’s finals, CNBC noted.