NBA Finals: Game 6 Second-Most Viewed NBA Game Since ’98 (UPDATED)

Posted by | June 13, 2011 at 5:30 PM

Perhaps proving to ABC brass that soap operas can still command an audience, the finale of a particularly melodramatic NBA season earned one of the league’s largest audiences of the past decade.

Sunday’s Mavericks/Heat Game 6 drew a 13.3 final rating and 23.880 million viewers on ABC, up 28% in ratings and 33% in viewership from last year (BOS/LAL G6: 10.4, 17.960M), and up 24% and 42%, respectively, from 2008 (LAL/BOS G6: 10.7, 16.879M). There was no Game 6 in 2009.

The game ranks as the highest rated Game 6 of the NBA Finals since 2000 (IND/LAL G6: 14.7), and the most-viewed since Michael Jordan‘s final game in 1998 (CHI/UTA G6: 35.89M, NBC).

Overall, Game 6 ranks as the second-most viewed NBA game since Michael Jordan‘s 1998 retirement, behind only Celtics/Lakers Game 7 last year (28.203M).

For some perspective, Heat/Mavericks Game 6 in 2006 drew a 10.1 and 15.710 million viewers.

This marks just the fourth time since reacquiring rights in 2002 that ABC has drawn at least 20 million viewers for an NBA game. The other such games were Lakers/Pistons Game 4 in 2004 (20.295M), Lakers/Pistons Game 5 the same year (21.843M), and the aforementioned Celtics/Lakers Game 7.

Compared to other sports, Game 6 drew more viewers than the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Game (CONN/BUT: 20.055M, CBS), the 2011 Daytona 500 (15.597M, FOX), and every game of the 2010 World Series.

In fact, Sunday’s game drew more viewers than every World Series game since 2004, even topping Yankees/Phillies Game 4 (22.761M, FOX) and Phillies/Yankees Game 6 (22.339M, FOX) in 2009.

Game 6 earned a 9.7 rating among adults 18-49, up 37% from Game 6 last year (7.1), up 41% from Game 6 in 2008 (6.9), and the best Game 6 rating in the demographic since 2000 (10.0). The 9.7 is the second-highest rating ever for an NBA game on ABC in the demo, behind only last year’s Celtics/Lakers Game 7 (11.4).

For the second straight year, the clinching game of the NBA Finals drew a higher rating among adults 18-49 than the season finale of the much-hyped FOX show American Idol. This year’s Idol finale drew a 9.2 in the demo.

Thanks to coverage of Game 6, ABC had its best non-Oscar Sunday in primetime since March 2006 in both total viewers and the adults 18-49 demographic.

Overall, the 2011 NBA Finals averaged a 10.2 rating and 17.339 million viewers on ABC. Click here for additional details on the series as a whole.

Most-Viewed NBA Games Since 1998
Ranked by viewership

#
Date
Game
Round, Gm. #
Series
Net
Rating
Viewers (000)
A18-49
1 Thu., 6/7/10 BOS 79, LAL 83 Finals, G7
LAL 4-3
ABC
15.6
28,203
11.4
2 Sun., 6/12/11 DAL 105, MIA 95 Finals, G6
DAL 4-2
ABC
13.3
23,880
9.7
3 Sun., 6/2/02 LAL 112, SAC 106 WCF, G7
LAL 4-3
NBC
14.4
23,796
11.0
4 Mon., 6/19/00 IND 111, LAL 116 Finals, G6
LAL 4-2
NBC
14.7
22,396
10.0
5 Tue., 6/15/04 LAL 87, DET 100 Finals, G5
DET 4-1
ABC
13.8
21,843
9.4
6 Sun., 6/13/04 LAL 80, DET 88 Finals, G4
DET 3-1
ABC
12.7
20,295
9.1
7 Sun., 6/10/01 LAL 96, PHI 91 Finals, G3
LAL 2-1
NBC
12.7
20,280
9.5
8 Wed., 6/13/01 LAL 100, PHI 86 Finals, G4
LAL 3-1
NBC
12.6
19,972
9.0
9 Sun., 6/4/00 POR 84, LAL 89 WCF, G7
LAL 4-3
NBC
12.4
19,090
9.3
10 Thu., 6/23/05 DET 74, SA 81 Finals, G7
SA 4-3
ABC
11.9
18,997
7.6

UPDATED 6/14/2011: The numbers for Game 6 have been adjusted to a 13.3 rating and 23.880 million viewers, up from the fast-national totals (13.1, 23.511M) released Monday.
UPDATED 6/29/2011: Fixed an omission; ABC had its best “non-Oscar” (Academy Awards) Sunday in primetime since 2006.

(This year’s numbers from abcmedianet.com, espnmediazone3.com; updated numbers from Media Life Magazine, Sports Business Daily)

  • Rich S.

    So since the low watermark of the Spurs/Cavs series in 2007, the NBA Finals have bounced back to average a 9.7 per game over 24 games. The World Series averaged 9.85 per game over the same 4-year span. So even though it seems like basketball is on a major upswing and baseball on the way down, their championship-series rounds pretty much run even. I suppose for the NBA that is a big victory, considering how high World Series ratings have been in the past.

    • JakeFrankie

      The upswing has been going since 2007 (6.2) 2008 (9.3) 2009 (8.4) 2010 (10.6) 2011 (10.1). If the NBA gets the Lakers-Heat, Lakers-Bulls or another Heat or Knicks Finals the ratings could exploded.

      NBA just being on World Series level tv ratings is great news for the league as Paulsen said the league will be very happy.

      Don’t underestimate MLB’s drawing power, The NBA Finals has a good chance of having a higher rating than the World Series again as long as Red Sox,Yankees or a Chicago team are not in the WS.

  • Nbahoops2011

    http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/dallas-mavericks/headlines/20110613-mavericks_title-clinching-game-6-sets-team-record-for-local-tv-viewers.ece#

    this article on the dallas morning news shows additional ratings information, such as the top-10 markets for game 6.