NBA Christmas Games Down From Last Year’s Season-Opening Slate

Posted by | January 3, 2013 at 11:17 AM

Each game of the NBA Christmas Day quintuple-header declined from 2011, when the league’s holiday slate doubled as Opening Day, but four of five were up from 2010.

In the top game of the day, Thunder/Heat earned a 5.1 final rating and 9.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen fast-nationals — down 9% in ratings and 13% in viewership from Bulls/Lakers the previous year (5.6, 11.0M), and down 20% and 27%, respectively, from Heat/Lakers in 2010 (6.4, 13.1M).

Though down from previous years, Thunder/Heat ranks as the fifth-most viewed NBA regular season game on any network since the current television deals began in the 2002-03 season.

Knicks/Lakers earlier in the day drew a 4.8 and 8.8 million viewers, down a tick in ratings and 3% in viewership from Heat/Mavericks last year (4.9, 9.0M), but up 4% and 1%, respectively, from Celtics/Magic in 2010 (4.6, 8.7M).

Despite the decline, Knicks/Lakers ranks as the seventh-most viewed NBA regular season game since the television deals went into effect.

Over on ESPN, the Celtics/Nets matinee drew 3.8 million viewers — down 36% from Celtics/Knicks on TNT last year, which was the first game of the season (5.9M), and down 7% from Bulls/Knicks on ESPN in 2010 (4.0M).

Rockets/Bulls later in the night drew 2.4 million, down 7% from Magic/Thunder last year (2.6M), but up 18% from Nuggets/Thunder in 2010 (2.0M). The Nuggets/Clippers nightcap scored 2.3 million, down 23% from Clippers/Warriors last year (3.0M), but up 34% from Trail Blazers/Warriors in 2010 (1.7M).

Overall, ESPN averaged 2.8 million viewers for three Christmas Day games, up slightly from two games on the network last year, up 10% from three games in 2010, and the network’s top NBA performance on the network since 2004.

NBA Christmas Day Ratings/Viewership on Broadcast
Past decade; All games on ABC

Year Date Time Away Home Rating Viewers
2012 Tue., 12/25/12 3 PM Knicks Lakers
4.8
8.8M
5:30 PM Thunder Heat
5.1
9.6M
2011 Sun., 12/25/11 2:30 PM Heat Mavs
4.9
9.0M
5 PM Bulls Lakers
5.6
11.0M
2010
Sat., 12/25/10 2:30 PM Celtics Magic
4.6
8.7M
5 PM Heat Lakers
6.4
13.1M
2009
Fri., 12/25/09 2:30 PM Celtics Magic
3.3
5.9M
5 PM Cavs Lakers
4.4
8.3M
2008
Thu., 12/25/08 2:30 PM Spurs Suns
3.2
5.8M
5 PM Celtics Lakers
5.3
10.0M
2007
Tue., 12/25/07 2:30 PM Heat Cavs
3.1
5.0M
5 PM Suns Lakers
3.5
6.0M
2006
Mon., 12/25/06 2:30 PM Lakers Heat
3.5
5.5M
2005
Sun., 12/25/05 12:30 PM Spurs Pistons
3.9
6.0M
3 PM Lakers Heat
4.8
8.1M
2004
Sat., 12/25/04 3 PM Heat Lakers
7.3
13.2M
2003
Thu., 12/25/03 6 PM Mavs Kings
3.1
5.0M
8:30 PM Rockets Lakers
4.1
7.2M
2002
Wed., 12/25/02 6 PM Celtics Nets
2.5
4.0M
8:30 PM Kings Lakers
4.5
7.5M

(Christmas Day numbers from ESPN)