NBA Finals: Game 5 Strong, But Again Down From Last Year


Game 5 of the 2011 NBA Finals was again down from last year, but the game drew one of the highest overnights ever for the NBA on ABC.

Thursday’s Game 5 between the Heat and Mavericks earned a 12.6 overnight rating on ABC, down 2% from last year (LAL/BOS G5: 12.8), but up 34% from 2009 (LAL/ORL G5: 9.4).

The 12.6 overnight is the second-highest for a Game 5 in the NBA Finals since 2004 (LAL/DET G5: 15.4), and the highest for Game 5 of a non-Lakers NBA Finals since 1998 (UTA/CHI G5: 20.6).

For some perspective, Mavericks/Heat Game 5 in 2006 drew a 10.2 overnight.

Game 5 drew the seventh-highest overnight for an NBA game on ABC since the network reacquired rights to the league in 2002, and the third-highest when series-clinching games are excluded.

Since the current scheduling format began in 2004, final ratings for Game 5 of the NBA Finals have declined between 10% and 17% from the overnight, putting Thursday’s game on pace to finish in the 10.5-11.2 range.

Game 5 drew a 32.7 rating in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, down 4% from Tuesday’s Game 4 (34.2), up 16% from Game 5 in 2006 (28.3).

The game drew a 31.9 in Dallas-Ft. Worth, up 5% from Game 4 (30.5), but down 11% from 2006 (36.0). By comparison, Game 5 of last year’s Giants/Rangers World Series drew a 31.3.

This is the first time all series that the NBA Finals has managed to draw a higher rating in Dallas than last year’s World Series. Every single game of the series has trailed the 2006 NBA Finals.

Overnight Ratings For Game 5 of the NBA Finals
Dating Back to 2001

(This year’s numbers from

  • JakeFrankie

    Great rating last night, Could finish with the same TV rating game 5 got last year a 10.8, This game will not get lower than 10.6 at least. One of the greatest NBA finals too so much drama.

    Pauslen I would love to your hear prediciton for game 6? People hate the Heat, Everyone is rooting for the Mavericks. Can it go up to the late 11’s?

    • Paulsen

      Depending on the quality of the game, I think it should surpass last year’s 10.4. However, I think an 11.0 will be harder to reach, and I really doubt the game will get into the 11.5-11.9 range.

      • JakeFrankie

        Well anything is possible, I was shocked that last week’s Sunday game 3 got a lower rating than game 2. 

        But just remember it’s a game 6 with Miami Heat on the verge of being knocked out. People will be watching, I’m guessing it will be in the early 11.0’s. If the NBA finals do end on Sunday no shame in finishing in the middle 9.0’s. Great season for ratings in the NBA.

        • Youngace

          Have the final Game 5 ratings been released? I want to know if it ended up beating Game 5 from last year….

          • Paulsen

            The viewership has been released (18.3M), but household ratings for the game have not yet been made available.

          • Youngace

            What’s your guess as to what they will be? Somewhere in the 10.4-11.0 range?

          • Paulsen

            If you’re talking about the household rating for Game 5, I think that will probably fall somewhere in the 10.5 to 10.8 range.

          • JakeFrankie

            Paulsen I been hearing the viewers of this series have been peaking at around 11:00 pm EST around near 23 Million viewers would tune in all together. Does that come into play when the ratings are done? 

  • danny

    your headline is a bit misleading as emphasizing the main story here is that the ratings are “down” from last year…you’re looking at a narrow angle, both literally an figuratively.

    the game was down, but down only 2 percent in overnights, is an extremely minimal downturn. The series is in fact getting higher viewers than last year, which perhaps equalizes the impact of the minimal decrease in overnight numbers. 

    Also the series isn’t on a day to day match with last years series…..Last year, Game 5 was on a Sunday night, with an 8 pm starting tip,  this years game 5 on  a Thursday night with more competition, etc…and again the decrease is minimal: 2 percent, with higher total viewership…

    Seems to me your just rehashing ESPN’s press release and picking a small fact amongst many to emphasize and enhance your theme….

    I use your site for research, and miss the more detailed effort you used to provide, such as more in depth year to year comparisons and analysis….hopefully your publish this comment, thanks, hope this doesn’t offend..

  • Rich S.

    18.3 million for game 5, a slight drop from 18.7 last year.

    Some interesting demographic changes with this year’s Finals. Through five games, it’s outrating the 2010 Lakers/Celtics series in adults 18-49, yet there’s a (very slight) drop in overall viewership and ratings. This would suggest that the traditional powerhouses LA and Boston draw better numbers with the older crowd, probably those weaned on Magic/Bird (or even Russell/West). Heat-Mavs is skewing younger, and it’s within the 50+ demographic that ABC is losing viewers, probably a function of LeBron, Wade, etc, being part of a younger generation of players.

    But long term this will only help increase the NBA’s viability. It seems now there are at least five competitive teams – Heat, Mavs, Lakers, Celtics, Bulls – who can draw huge national ratings for the NBA, and younger teams like the Thunder may not be too far behind. Bodes very well for the future; this could be a decade in which the Finals ratings will consistently hit the double-digit mark.