NBA Playoffs: Heat/Bulls Game 1 Most-Viewed NBA Game Ever on Cable

Posted by | May 16, 2011 at 1:06 PM

The Eastern Conference Finals got off to a record start on TNT, as the opener of the Heat/Bulls series earned the largest audience ever for an NBA game on cable television.

Game 1 between the Heat and Bulls drew a 6.2 U.S. rating and over 11.109 million viewers on TNT Sunday night, up 41% in ratings and 56% in viewership from Game 1 of last year’s West Finals on TNT (PHX/LAL G1: 4.4, 7.112M), and up 35% and 52%, respectively, from Game 1 of the 2009 East Finals (ORL/CLE G1: 4.6, 7.321M).

Compared to Game 1 of last year’s East Finals on ABC (BOS/ORL G1: 4.5, 7.030M), ratings and viewership increased by 38% and 58%, respectively.

Heat/Bulls Game 1 ranks as the most-viewed NBA game ever on cable television, topping the previous record set by the 2003 NBA All-Star Game on TNT (10.829M). The previous record for an NBA playoff game on cable was set by Cavaliers/Magic Game 4 in 2009, also on TNT (10.075M).

In addition, the game ranks as the most-viewed Game 1 of any Conference Final series ever on cable. Even prior to the current cable-heavy TV deal, the first two games of each Conference Final typically aired on TNT or TBS. For some perspective, Game 1 (7.2M TV homes) easily surpassed Game 1 of the 1997 Heat/Bulls Eastern Conference Finals, which also aired on TNT (5.4M TV homes).

Excluding the NBA Finals, Sunday’s game ranks as the most-viewed NBA playoff game on any network since Lakers/Kings Game 7 in 2002 (23.796M), and the fourth-most viewed playoff game of the past ten seasons. Only Games 5, 6 and 7 of that aforementioned Lakers/Kings series earned better numbers.

Compared to another major Turner Sports property, Sunday’s game outdrew Game 1 of the Rangers/Yankees ALCS on TBS last October (5.0, 8.111M)

Most-Viewed Non-Finals NBA Playoff Games, Past Ten Seasons

#
Date
Game
Round, Game
Net
Rating
Viewers (000)
1
Sun., 6/2/02 LAL 112, SAC 106 WCF, G7 NBC
14.4
23,796
2
Fri., 5/31/02 SAC 102, LAL 106 WCF, G6 NBC
11.1
16,644
3
Tue., 5/28/02 LAL 91, SAC 92 WCF, G5 NBC
9.9
14,586
4
Sun., 5/15/11 MIA 82, CHI 103 ECF, G1 TNT
6.2
11,109
5
Tue., 5/26/09 CLE 114, ORL 116 ECF, G4 TNT
6.3
10,075
6
Fri., 5/24/02 SAC 103, LAL 90 WCF, G3 NBC
6.7
10,063
7
Thu., 5/28/09 ORL 102, CLE 112 ECF, G5 TNT
6.2
9,995
8
Wed., 5/29/02 BOS 92, NJ 103 ECF, G5 NBC
7.3
9,913
9
Mon., 5/25/09 LAL 101, DEN 120 WCF, G4 ESPN
5.8
9,731
10
Sun., 5/26/02 SAC 99, LAL 100 WCF, G4 NBC
6.8
9,659

Most-Viewed NBA Games Ever on Cable

#
Date
Game
Round, Game
Net
Rating
Viewers (000)
1
Sun., 5/15/11 MIA 83, CHI 102 ECF, G1 TNT
6.2
11,109
2
Sun., 2/9/03 WEST 155, EAST 145 All-Star TNT
6.6
10,829
3
Tue., 5/26/09 CLE 114, ORL 116 ECF, G4 TNT
6.3
10,075
4
Thu., 5/28/09 ORL 102, CLE 112 ECF, G5 TNT
6.2
9,995
5
Mon., 5/25/09 LAL 101, DEN 120 WCF, G4 ESPN
5.8
9,731
6
Mon., 5/31/04 MIN 90, LAL 96 WCF, G6 TNT
6.0
9,438
7
Wed., 5/27/09 DEN 94, LAL 103 WCF, G5 ESPN
5.6
9,238
8
Mon., 6/1/05 DET 88, MIA 82 ECF, G7 TNT
6.2
9,149
9
Sun., 2/20/11 WEST 148, EAST 143 All-Star TNT
5.2
9,093
10
Thu., 5/13/10 CLE 85, BOS 94 Semis, G6 ESPN
5.7
8,983

(Numbers from Turner Sports)

  • JakeFrankie

    That is crazy, If Lakers make the finals again in a few years and meet the Heat the freaking finals could hit will easily get a 12-13 average rating.
    Not That I’m taking anything away from the drawing power of the Bulls, Just shocked how great the game did.

    Bulls and Heat will hold the NBA Finals rating, I dont see it dropping out of Double Digits. Dallas is a bigger Market than OKC, But I dont think OKC will hurt the finals rating playing the Bulls or Heat.

  • JakeFrankie

    That is crazy, If Lakers make the finals again in a few years and meet the Heat the freaking finals could hit will easily get a 12-13 average rating.
    Not That I’m taking anything away from the drawing power of the Bulls, Just shocked how great the game did.

    Bulls and Heat will hold the NBA Finals rating, I dont see it dropping out of Double Digits. Dallas is a bigger Market than OKC, But I dont think OKC will hurt the finals rating playing the Bulls or Heat.

  • JakeFrankie

    That is crazy, If Lakers make the finals again in a few years and meet the Heat the freaking finals could hit will easily get a 12-13 average rating.
    Not That I’m taking anything away from the drawing power of the Bulls, Just shocked how great the game did.

    Bulls and Heat will hold the NBA Finals rating, I dont see it dropping out of Double Digits. Dallas is a bigger Market than OKC, But I dont think OKC will hurt the finals rating playing the Bulls or Heat.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/2SXUVOZCVS455CPRNXAXBMH2SE James

    OOOOOOHHHHH THIS RATING IS NASTY JUST LIKE TAJ GIBSON’S TWO DUNKS ON THE HEAT LAST NIGHT!!!!
    This is one sick rating right here for a Game 1, way beyond my
    expectations which was only like 7-9 million viewers. I was expecting
    record breakers anyways but that wouldn’t until like Games 4 or 5 but it
    got this rating in Game 1.
    I think people really underestimated the Bulls’ drawing power. When
    any Chicago team is on their way to a potential championship run the
    numbers are usually enormous. I’ve always known that the Bulls were the
    #3 draw in the league nationally in the league behind the Lakers and
    Celtics due to the Jordan effect back in the 90s. This is really the
    first season the rest of the nation is getting a chance to see the
    Derrick Rose led Bulls for the first time so every season their in the
    picture their going to be their own money drawer.
    A lot of credit needs to be given to the Heat for drawing casual
    viewers back to the NBA. This could be the NBA’s next big era coming up
    starting this year. I think D. Rose’s star power is only going to get
    larger but LeBron has that national appeal that Kobe has now so you get
    the best of both worlds indeed in this series.
    This is the one season where the Lakers aren’t needed b/c The Finals
    are in good shape with any of these matchups, Dallas will draw big
    numbers against either team and the Bulls can carry the Thunder.
    I’m not totally blowing this out of proportion but I wouldn’t be
    surprised if the Bulls-Heat get to a Game 7 that it will draw 20 million
    viewers.

     

    • JakeFrankie

      Yes this series will be the most watched conference finals in TNT history, I told people months ago Knicks/Bulls drawing power can NEVER be questioned. Celtics are well behind the Knicks and Bulls in drawing point of course the Heat too.

      East will carry this decade for the NBA, A lot of big stars and teams in the East. 
      Just Remember Blake Griffin is a MONSTER Draw for the NBA already just wait until the Clippers get good it will take a couple years though.

  • Srr50

    One would hope that if this ratings trends continue it would send a message to both sides that the coming Armegeddon over the CBA should be avoided at all costs.

    One would hope.  

  • Tko14odp

    The Bulls and Chicago command the ratings. How can you not like d.rose and cast with their hustle and great defense