The abbreviated 2011-12* NBA regular season got off to an impressive start in the ratings.
Four of the five NBA Christmas Day games were up from last year, and the only game to have a decline earned the third-best regular season overnight of the past ten years.
First, Celtics/Knicks on TNT drew a 4.1 overnight rating, up 52% from last year (CHI/NY: 2.7, ESPN), and up 105% from 2009 (MIA/NY: 2.0, ESPN).
Compared to last year’s NBA season opener, which aired on October 26 (MIA/BOS: 5.6), the game was down 27%. Of course, that game aired in primetime and was LeBron James‘ Heat debut.
Speaking of the Heat, ABC earned a 5.6 overnight for Heat/Mavericks, up 6% from last year (BOS/ORL: 5.3), and up 47% from the comparable game in 2009 (BOS/ORL: 3.8).
The 5.6 is the highest ever for the first game of an NBA Christmas Day doubleheader on ABC.
In the second half of ABC’s doubleheader, Bulls/Lakers earned a 6.4 overnight — down 12% from last year (MIA/LAL: 7.3), but up 28% from 2009 (CLE/LAL: 5.0).
Despite the decline, the 6.4 overnight is the third-highest ever for an NBA regular season game on ABC, behind both Heat/Lakers last year (7.3) and Heat/Lakers in 2004 (7.9).
Of note, ABC’s numbers are on par with what NBC drew in its first doubleheader of the 1998-99* season. NBC earned a 5.1 overnight for regional coverage and then a 6.5 for Jazz/Lakers on February 7, 1999.
In primetime, ESPN drew a 1.9 overnight for Magic/Thunder, up 36% from last year (DEN/OKC: 1.4). The double-digit increase came despite competition from the Bears/Packers NFL regular season game on NBC.
The final game of the day had the biggest increase, as Clippers/Warriors earned a 2.3 overnight — up 77% from last year’s Trail Blazers/Warriors game, and the highest overnight ever for a primetime Christmas Day game on ESPN.
* Shortened due to owners’ lockout
(Sunday’s numbers from espnmediazone3.com, Turner Sports)