ABC is really hurting without the benefit of the Miami Heat on their airwaves. This past weekend, ratings for the Spurs-Warriors and Knicks-Pacers games suffered sharp declines. Sunday's San Antonio-Golden State matchup drew a 3.4 rating and 5.3 million viewers, down 29% in ratings and 30% in viewers from last year's Heat-Pacers game and 36% and 40% from 2011's Lakers-Mavericks matchup. The Knicks and Pacers didn't fare any better on Saturday evening, drawing similar marks of a 3.5 rating and 5.3 million viewers, down 29% and 35% from Heat-Celtcs in 2011 (with no comparable game last year).
The Knicks-Pacers game on Saturday was the lowest rated and least viewed primetime ABC playoff game since Cavaliers-Hawks in 2009 (which drew a 3.2 rating and 5.0 million viewers). Five of the seven ABC NBA playoff games from this year have been down in both ratings and viewership to games last year in a comparable window.
Here's the bad news for ABC: it's not going to be getting any better this weekend. The network's lone game this weekend comes on Sunday afternoon, and pits the Grizzlies against the Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Since ABC began airing the NBA Finals in 2003, their three lowest-rated series all involved the Spurs. In fact, the two lowest-rated NBA Finals of all time have come in the last decade and involved the Spurs: 2003 vs the Nets (6.5 rating) and 2009 vs the Cavaliers (6.2 rating, the lowest of all-time). With TNT owning exclusive rights to the Eastern Conference Finals, another Heat-less round for ABC and ESPN will lead to vicious drops from last year's record-setting Heat-Celtics Eastern Conference Finals. Will the 5.0 rating and 7.8 million viewers that TNT drew for the Western Conference Finals last year between the Thunder and Spurs be a more realistic expectation, or is that even too high? It'll be interesting to see what happens, but ABC cannot be happy.
And if the Heat get upset in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Knicks or Pacers? We could be scraping the bottom of the barrel for NBA TV ratings once again.