2011 NBA Finals Down From 2010, But Third-Best on ABC (UPDATED)

Posted by | June 13, 2011 at 7:44 PM

Though down from last year’s seven-game series, the 2011 NBA Finals ranks as one of the strongest television attractions in recent NBA history.

ABC averaged a 10.2 household rating and 17.339 million viewers for coverage of the Mavericks/Heat NBA Finals, down 4% in ratings and viewership from last year (LAL/BOS: 10.6, 18.144M), but up 21% in both measures compared to 2009 (LAL/ORL: 8.4, 14.347M).

Keep in mind last year’s NBA Finals went seven games. Compared to last year’s six-game averages (9.7, 16.433M), ratings and viewership for this year’s series increased by 5% and 6%, respectively.

The last time the Heat and Mavericks played each other in the NBA Finals, the series averaged an 8.5 and 12.972 million viewers — solid numbers during the league’s mid-2000s doldrums.

Of the nine NBA Finals on ABC (2003 to present), this year’s series ranks third in ratings and viewership, behind only last year and 2004 (LAL/DET: 11.5, 17.942M). In addition, the series ranks as the most-viewed NBA Finals since 1998 that did not involve the Lakers (CHI/UTA: 29.040M, NBC).

After a five season stretch when the NBA Finals failed to average at least 10% of U.S. TV homes each year (2005 to 2009), the event has hit double-digits in back-to-back years.

Among adults 18-49, this year’s NBA Finals averaged a 7.1 rating — down 3% from last year’s seven-game average (7.3), but up 20% from 2009 (5.9). This year’s NBA Finals is tied with 1999 as the fifth-highest rated in the demo since the 1998-99 lockout (13 series), behind last year, 2000 (7.6), 2004 (7.9), and 2001 (8.6).

This year’s NBA Finals averaged a higher rating and more viewers than the most recent World Series (SF/TEX: 8.4, 14.3M, FOX), the 2011 NCAA Final Four (9.8, 17.0M, CBS), and the 2011 Bowl Championship Series (9.5, 16.724M, ESPN).

Averages for the Final Four and Bowl Championship Series include the sports’ respective National Championship games.

Average Ratings/Viewership For the NBA Finals
Dating back to 1995

Year
Series
Net
Rating
Viewers (000)
A18-49
2011
DAL 4, MIA 2 ABC
10.2
17,339
7.1
2010
LAL 4, BOS 3 ABC
10.6
18,144
7.3
2009
LAL 4, ORL 1 ABC
8.4
14,347
5.9
2008
BOS 4, LAL 2 ABC
9.3
14,941
6.1
2007
SA 4, CLE 0 ABC
6.2
9,289
3.7
2006
MIA 4, DAL 2 ABC
8.5
12,972
5.3
2005
SA 4, DET 3 ABC
8.2
12,544
5.1
2004
DET 4, LAL 1 ABC
11.5
17,942
7.9
2003
SA 4, NJ 2 ABC
6.5
9,864
4.1
2002
LAL 4, NJ 0 NBC
10.2
15,678
6.7
2001
LAL 4, PHI 1 NBC
12.1
18,996
8.6
2000
LAL 4, IND 2 NBC
11.6
17,402
7.6
1999
SA 4, NY 1 NBC
11.3
16,014
7.1
1998
CHI 4, UTA 2 NBC
18.7
29,040
13.1
1997
CHI 4, UTA 2 NBC
16.8
25,586
?
1996
CHI 4, SEA 2 NBC
16.7
24,858
?
1995
HOU 4, ORL 0 NBC
13.9
20,078
?

(This year’s numbers from espnmediazone3.com; updated averages from Sports Business Daily)

  • JakeFrankie

    Getting 8′s is not bad in the 2010′s, Anything lower than 8.0′s than I think the NBA would have a problem with. Spurs destoryed the 2000′s Finals every Finals they played in was boring basketball that nobody outside of there fans wanted to see. 

    It’s a different era of Ratings as we have spoken about, But since 2008 everything has been on the uprise in the NBA which is great news for us fans.

  • JakeFrankie

    Paulsen what happened to make it from a 10.1 to a 10.2?

    • Paulsen

      The final rating for Game 6 was updated from a 13.1 to a 13.3.

      • JakeFrankie

        I just saw your updated chart, so Game 6 surpassed the epic Kings-Lakers game 7 from 2002 too right?

        Regardless great news for the NBA, Great season you did ANOTHER great job Im proud of you lol

        • Paulsen

          Yes, Game 6 now ranks as the second-most viewed NBA game since ’98, ahead of Lakers/Kings.

          Also, thanks for the compliment. Depending on what happens in the next few weeks, this could be one of the last NBA ratings posts for a good while.

          • Brian

            I believe this is wrong. That game 7 in 2002 registered a final rating of 14.2.

          • Paulsen

            This year’s Game 6 had more viewers than that Lakers/Kings Game 7. Lakers/Kings did have a higher rating (14.4).

          • Rich S.

            Paulsen, let me echo the compliments and say you’ve done a great job with this site.

            Have you ever written anything about the effect of lockouts on television ratings? I know there are only two recent examples, but considering the drop in popularity suffered by the NBA in ’99 and the NHL in ’04, it may be interesting to assess the potential effect for both the NFL and the NBA if they don’t come to terms before their respective seasons begin.

          • Paulsen

            No, but I’ll probably write something later this summer. I think the NBA in much better position to hold on to fans than they were in ’99, mainly because the league has so many young stars who are in or entering their prime.

            As for the NFL, I don’t think even a canceled season could cause any irreparable harm to the league’s popularity.

          • JakeFrankie

            NBA is in much better shape in 2011 than in 1999. Michael Jordan carried the NBA in the 1990′s the league’s problems that peaked in the middle of the 2000′s started in the 1990′s. People forget Bulls dynasty was by far the biggest draw in the 1990′s, Lakers-Celtics were terrible. Knicks a big draw were called “Thugs” by USA today. Kenny Anderson was a perfect example of one of the first “BIG” contracts they he tanked stop trying you don’t see that anymore.

            The NBA’s lowest point was 2005-2007, The league is in good hands these days with the Young stars like Griffin,Durant,Rose,Westbrook,Paul,Wall. Just remember LeBron is only 26, Carmelo is young still etc… These guys today try so hard, They give everything they have on the court regardless of the game. Not counting the Miami Heat all of these guys all have good images, They know how to carry themselves not only as Basketball players but as people. Almost 30% of sports fans have gained a more positive image of the NBA that was taken in a 2009 ESPN poll by some writer. The dress code, Rules put in place by David Stern have really cleaned up the sport helped in the right direction. The rating will get high than fall etc. etc… But regardless the sport is in great shape. Stern gets a lot of heat for many things but he did a good job to get the sport in the right spot.