Clearing Up Some Confusion About Basketball TV Ratings

Posted by | June 25, 2013 at 2:18 PM

With misinformation barreling through the Twittersphere — and much of it citing this website — here is an attempt to clear up some of the confusion surrounding television ratings for the NBA Finals, the Final Four, and believe it or not, the 2010 World Cup.

More people watched Louisville win the NCAA Tournament than watched the Miami Heat win the NBA Finals, right? Or, to put it another way, “More People Watched Kevin Ware Cut Down The Nets Than LeBron James

No. Not even close to true. Game 7 of the Heat/Spurs NBA Finals had 26.3 million viewers on ABC alone (and another 269K on ESPN Deportes), finishing comfortably ahead of the Louisville/Michigan NCAA Tournament title game (23.4M). The 15.3 final rating for Spurs/Heat Game 7 also topped the 14.0 for Louisville/Michigan. In other words, about three million more people watched the Heat win the NBA Finals than watched Louisville win the NCAA Tournament.

But more people watched the NCAA Final Four than the NBA Finals.

Yes. The NCAA Final Four averaged an 11.0 rating and 18.3 million viewers over three games, according to figures compiled by this website (CBS and Turner Sports did not release averages for the round). By comparison, the NBA Finals averaged a 10.5 and 17.7 million over seven games on ABC, with an additional 142K on ESPN Deportes.

So Louisville is more popular than the Miami Heat!

Again, no. Louisville technically dragged down the ratings for the Final Four. The Wichita State/Louisville semifinal had an 8.7 rating and 14.5 million viewers on CBS, easily the lowest rated and least-viewed game of the round. By comparison, the Michigan/Syracuse game later in the night had a 10.2 and 17.1 million.

To be fair, if Louisville and Michigan swapped opponents, the numbers would have been different. Surely, a Louisville/Syracuse game would have also flirted with double-digits, and a Michigan/Wichita State game would have been hard-pressed to hit 9.0. The point remains, however, that Louisville was not the driving force behind this year’s numbers.

Okay, but at least the World Cup drew better numbers than both events, right?

No. A few people claimed on Twitter that the 2010 USA/Ghana World Cup match outdrew Game 7 of the NBA Finals — but the numbers were inaccurate (one person even compared an overnight rating to P2+ viewership).

Game 7 of the NBA Finals had 26.3 million viewers, more than any World Cup game ever in the United States. The all-time record for the World Cup in the U.S. is 24.3 million viewers for the 2010 Spain/Netherlands final on ABC and Univision combined. The USA/Ghana match in 2010 had a combined 19.4 million viewers across both networks, trailing not only Game 7 but Game 6 as well. The Louisville/Michigan title game also drew more viewers than USA/Ghana.

Okay, fine. But both events beat the BCS.

Yes and no. Both the NBA Finals and Final Four had a higher average rating and viewership than the five-game BCS. But the Alabama/Notre Dame BCS National Championship Game ranks as the most-viewed non-NFL sporting event of 2013, edging Game 7 of the NBA Finals (26.38M to 26.31M). Keep in mind that does not factor in ESPN Deportes numbers for either event.

Game 7 of the NBA Finals did have a higher rating than the BCS title game (15.3 to 15.1).

So, in conclusion:

On average, the Final Four topped the NBA Finals, and both topped the Bowl Championship Series. As far as individual viewership, the BCS title game edged Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and both beat the NCAA title game. As far as individual ratings, Game 7 edged the BCS, and both beat the NCAA.

The Final Four beat the NBA Finals, but more people watched Miami win the title than watched Louisville do the same. Both events did quite well, but still feel free to divide up the bragging rights accordingly.

  • BallDAQ

    “But the Alabama/Notre Dame BCS National Championship Game ranks as the most-viewed sporting event of 2013″

    Excluding the superbowl & NFL you mean?

    • Paulsen

      Yes, thanks for spotting that. Here’s hoping I didn’t create more confusion.