Notes: NBA playoff viewership continues to grow
NBA playoff viewership continues to be well ahead of the past three years.
Coverage of the NBA playoffs averaged 3.6 million viewers on ESPN, ABC and TNT through Thursday, up 23% from last year and 29% from 2019, the previous post-season to start in April (2.80 million). Viewership was also up 102% from the playoffs delayed months two years ago.
Of the 19 comparable game windows in 2019, all but two saw an increase in viewership. Although out-of-home viewing was not included in the 2019 figures, out-of-home viewing alone is unlikely to explain the nearly 30% increase.
The Nets-Celtics series continues to be the dominant draw in the first round. After Game 1 delivered the biggest NBA playoff opening weekend viewership in 20 years, Game 2 averaged 3.96 million viewers on TNT on Wednesday – behind only Lakers-Suns last year (4.02 million*) as the most-watched Game 2 of a first-round series in six years.
The audience jumped 53% compared to last year (Hawks-Knicks: 2.58M*) and 83% even more than in 2019 (Pacers-Celtics: 2.16M). The Celtics’ win topped the evening on adult television 18-34 (1.25) and 18-49 (1.4) and won comfortably 25-54 (1.5).
On each of the six playoff nights, an NBA playoff game ranked as the top TV show among adults 18-34 and 18-49 (usually followed in second place by another playoff game ). At 25-54, a playoff game topped the ratings on five of six nights, the only exception being Tuesday – when NBC’s “This is Us” took the top honors.
Beyond the Nets-Celtics, Bulls-Bucks and Warriors-Nuggets were the strongest draws. These three series account for seven of the ten largest playoff viewership to date, including 3.22 and 3.70 million respectively for Warriors-Nuggets Game 2 and Game 3 and 3.23 million for Chicago Game 2 vs. Milwaukee. .
Golden State’s games were up 16 and 11 percent from equivalent games in their previous 2019 first-round series (2.77 and 3.32 million), but were mixed from a year ago. While Game 2 is up 26% from the Blazers-Nuggets in the same window a year ago (2.55M*), Game 3 is actually down from the Suns-Lakers (3.72 M*).
Moving on to the other series, Memphis’ Game 3 comeback over Minnesota averaged 3.20M on TNT Thursday – up 28% from last year (Bucks-Heat: 2.49M* ) and 9% over 2019 (Sixers-Nets: 2.93M). Game 2 drew 645,000 people on NBA TV on Tuesday, the network’s most-watched playoff game since 2018.
The Pelicans’ Game 2 vs. Phoenix scored 2.94M on Tuesday, down at least 27% from the Lakers-Suns last year (4.02M*) but up 13% from 2019 ( Thunder Blazers: 2.59M).
The Raptors-Sixers scored 2.74 million on TNT on Monday, up 11% from a year ago (Heat-Bucks: 2.45M*) but down 4% from 2019 (Nets- Sixers: 2.85M). Game 3 had 627,000 viewers on NBA TV Wednesday, the network’s second-largest playoff viewership since 2018.
Finally, Hawks-Heat Game 2 had 2.70 million on TNT on Tuesday (+10%); Jazz-Mavericks Games 2 and 3 drew 514,000 and 420,000 on NBA TV Monday and Thursday.
* The asterisk indicates that last year’s figure is pending revision due to Nielsen undercounting of out-of-home data.
[Nielsen estimates from ShowBuzz Daily 4.19, 4.20, 4.21, 4.22]