Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals hit a seven-year high in both ratings and viewership on ABC.
Tuesday’s Mavericks/Heat Game 1 earned a 9.0 final rating and 15.171 million viewers on ABC, up 5% in ratings and 8% in viewership from last year (BOS/LAL G1: 8.6, 14.091M), and up 15% and 16%, respectively, from 2009 (ORL/LAL G1: 7.8, 13.042M).
This marks the highest rated, most-viewed Game 1 of the NBA Finals since 2004 (DET/LAL G1: 9.8, 15.360M), and the top Game 1 since 1999 that did not feature the Lakers (NY/SA G1: 11.5, 16.57M, NBC).
For some perspective, Heat/Mavericks Game 1 in 2006 drew a 7.8 final rating and 11.514 million viewers, and Cavaliers/Spurs Game 1 in 2007 (LeBron James‘ first NBA Finals game) drew a 6.3 and 9.206 million.
Game 1 drew more viewers than all but one game of the ’06 Heat/Mavericks series (MIA/DAL G6: 15.710M).
Compared to other sports, Game 1 outdrew the opener of last year’s Giants/Rangers World Series on FOX (8.9, 15.001M), as well as the recent Kentucky Derby (8.5, 14.539M). The game also drew a higher rating (but fewer viewers) than February’s Daytona 500 (8.7, 15.597M).
Tuesday’s game drew a 6.5 rating in the key adults 18-49 demographic, up 14% from last year (5.7), up 20% from 2009 (5.4), and the top rated Game 1 in the demo since 2004 (7.0). The game also drew a 6.8 rating among adults 18-34 and a 9.0 among men 18-34, both records for Game 1 of the NBA Finals on ABC.
Though Mavericks/Heat won Tuesday night among adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54, the game was not the most-viewed program of the night on broadcast. That honor went to NBC’s America’s Got Talent (15.28M) — marking the first time since 2007 that an NBA Finals game has not been the most-viewed program of the night on television.
Of course, it is not unprecedented for major sports to fall to other broadcast fare on the same night. This April, the Connecticut/Butler NCAA National Championship Game was topped by ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, and Game 2 of last year’s Giants/Rangers World Series drew fewer viewers than both CSI and The Mentalist on CBS.