ESPN kicked off their Wednesday NBA doubleheaders this week, and the early results were strong. The Bulls-Pacers and Mavericks-Thunder matchups averaged a 1.7 rating, a 55% jump from last year's first doubleheader. The games featured last year were 76ers-Hornets and Spurs-Clippers, which only averaged a 1.1 rating, with the early matchup drawing just a 0.9. Both games this year had a 1.7. The viewership of the doubleheader also increased by 72%, rising to an average of 2.048 million viewers from 1.193 million viewers last year.
It's not surprising about the early success of the league. The Bulls are always a popular team, and the return of Derrick Rose is fueling strong early season ratings. Meanwhile, the Pacers improved to 5-0 with their blowout win on Wednesday, taking advantage of a weak schedule to jump out to an early lead in the Central Division.
While the Mavericks-Thunder game was also not really close, the Thunder are a young and exciting team, and the storylines surrounding the return of Russell Westbrook probably played a part in the interest towards the team. The Mavericks are a large market team that was coming off of a thrashing of the Lakers on Tuesday night, possibly picking up some interest in the process.
The early game last year was an affront to modern basketball. The 76ers and Hornets combined for just 139 points and shot a terrible 19.5% from beyond the arc and 37.9% from the floor for the game.