Perhaps putting to rest the notion that fans will hold leagues accountable for the unnecessary cancellation of games, the 2011-12* NBA regular season has gotten off to a red hot start in the ratings.
The first week of the abbreviated NBA regular season averaged a 2.5 U.S. rating and 3.957 million viewers on TNT (five telecasts), up 127% in ratings and viewership from the comparable week last season (1.1, 1.743M, two telecasts).
The network’s opening week coverage was highlighted by the Celtics/Knicks Christmas Day game (3.4, 5.860M), which ranks as the fourth-most viewed NBA game in cable history.
The December 27 Celtics/Heat game was also a strong draw, netting a 2.9 U.S. rating and 4.548 million viewers — the sixth-most viewed NBA game on TNT since the 1995-96 season.
Over on NBA TV, the first week of the shortened season averaged 405,000 viewers, up 120% from the first week last year. The December 30 Bulls/Clippers game earned 722,000 viewers, the network’s largest audience ever for a regular season game. The network aired three of its ten most-viewed regular season games during the week.
Keep in mind NBA TV is only in its second season as a Nielsen-rated network.
NBA Has Most-Viewed Christmas Day in At Least Ten Years: The NBA’s five-game Christmas Day slate attracted 34.85 million unique viewers, up 2% from last year (34.16M), and the most since Nielsen began tracking unique viewership in 2001.
In addition to the previously mentioned Celtics/Knicks game, the Christmas Day slate included Heat/Mavericks (4.9, 9.023M, ABC), Bulls/Lakers (5.6, 11.014M, ABC), Magic/Thunder (1.6, 2.566M, ESPN), and Clippers/Warriors (1.9, 3.007M, ESPN).
* The 2011-12 NBA season was shortened due to the owners’ five-month lockout of players, the fourth owner-imposed lockout in league history.
(This year’s numbers from the NBA, Turner Sports, ESPN, Nielsen.com)