NBA Finals Viewership Drops Sharply From Last Two Seasons

2019 NBA Finals - Game Two

HOLLYWOOD (CNS) - The official viewership for ABC's coverage of the opening two games of the NBA Finals averaged 13.635 million viewers, 23.9 percent less than the 2018 finals and 29 percent lower than 2017 but were last week's most-watched programs by a wide margin.

The Toronto Raptors 118-109 victory in Game 1 Thursday averaged 13.382 million viewers, the least for a finals Game 1 since 2007 when the San Antonio Spurs 85-76 victory over Cleveland averaged 9.29 million viewers, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen Tuesday.

The Golden State Warriors 109-104 victory in Game 2 Sunday averaged 13.887 million viewers, the most for a prime-time program between May 27 and Sunday, but the least for a Game 2 since the 2009 series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic.

The two finals games were the week's only programs to average more than 10 million viewers. ABC's seven-minute postgame show following Game 2 was third for the week, averaging 9.885 million viewers.

The first two games of the 2018 finals averaged 17.913 million viewers and the first two of the 2017 finals averaged 19.192 million, the largest average for the first two games of the finals since the 1998 series between the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz, Michael Jordan's last finals appearance, which aired on NBC. ABC has aired the finals each year since 2003.

Both the 2017 and 2018 finals matched the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, whose roster included LeBron James.

Official viewership figures for nearly all forms of programming are down on a year-to-year basis, in part because more people are watching the same programming on a streamed basis, which are not included in the official figures.

A second factor for this year's drop is the first presence of a Canadian team in the finals, meaning there is not a second local market with huge viewership, boosting the national figure.

The most-watched non-sports program during the first full week of television's summer season was the season premiere of the NBC competition series “America's Got Talent,” continuing its streak of being the most- watched entertainment program each week an original episode has aired which dates back at least to the summer of 2017.

The two-hour episode averaged 9.751 million viewers, the week's only non-sports prime-time program to average over 8 million viewers.

NBA Finals Viewership Drops Sharply From Last Two Seasons

The premiere of the songwriting competition “Songland” which followed “America's Got Talent” averaged 5.512 million viewers, the most for a summer premiere of an alternative series on broadcast television since June 21, 2017, when NBC's “Little Big Shots: Forever Young” averaged 7.43 million.

“Songland” was 10th for the week and first in its 10-11 p.m. time slot May 28.

The week's other premiere, the NBC procedural drama “The InBetween” was first in its 10-11 p.m. time slot May 29 and 26th for the week, averaging 3.656 million viewers, 26th for the week. It retained 75.6 percent of the audience of the two-hour “American Ninja Warrior” episode that preceded it.

ABC recorded its first weekly victory since airing the Oscars in February and second since last June, averaging 5.37 million viewers. Its most- watched program outside of its basketball coverage was “The Bachelorette,” 17th for the week, averaging 4.677 million viewers.

NBC edged CBS, 3.92 million-3.91 million to finish second. CBS swept the fifth through ninth spots for the week, topped by “60 Minutes,” fifth for the week, averaging 7.007 million viewers.

Fox finished fourth among the major broadcast networks for the 20th consecutive week, averaging 2.03 million viewers for its 15 hours, 36 minutes of prime-time programming. Its most-watched program for the second consecutive week was the cooking competition “MasterChef,” which finished 38th overall, averaging 3.139 million viewers.

Fox also trailed corporate sibling Fox News Channel, which averaged 2.239 million viewers to be the most-watched cable network.

ABC and CBS both aired 22 hours of programming for ratings purposes, NBC 21 hours, 51 minutes.

The Fox News Channel political talk show “Hannity” accounted for four of the week's seven most-watched cable programs. Its Wednesday broadcast was the week's most-watched cable program, averaging 3.514 million viewers, 29th overall.

MSNBC was second among cable networks, averaging 1.481 million viewers. HGTV was third, averaging 1.288 million.

The most-watched Spanish-language prime-time program was the Univision talent show “Pequenos Gigantes” which averaged 1.915 million viewers, 65th among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.

Univision was the most-watched Spanish-language network for the third consecutive week after four straight second-place finishes, averaging 1.25 million viewers. Telemundo was second, averaging 1.09 million, followed by UniMas, which averaged 410,000, Estrella TV, which averaged 190,000, and Azteca America, which averaged 50,000.

ABC's “World News Tonight with David Muir” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for the 27th consecutive week and 78th time in the past 79 weeks, averaging 7.936 million viewers.

The “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was second, averaging 7.335 million viewers.

The “CBS Evening News” averaged 5.302 million viewers. It has finished third each week since the week of Sept. 25-29, 2006.

The weekly averages for all three network newscasts did not include Memorial Day.

The week's 10 most-watched prime-time programs were ABC's coverage of Games 2 and 1 of the NBA Finals and its seven-minute postgame show following Game 2; NBC's “America's Got Talent”; CBS' “60 Minutes,” “NCIS,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Young Sheldon” and “NCIS”; and NBC's “Songland.”

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