Much was made of the ratings from last year’s NBA Finals when the San Antonio Spurs faced the Miami Heat for the first time. In spite of having two of the best teams of this era of basketball and the biggest global superstar in the game in LeBron James, much of the series reached middling viewership and was down compared to recent years. It wasn’t until Games 6 and 7 and the dramatic end to the series when the nation finally started to take notice and ratings shot through the roof.
Well, the 2014 Finals are once again off to a so-so start. Game 1 was relatively close throughout and featured a truly unique storylines with the air conditioning malfunctioning in San Antonio. With LeBron James cramping up and the Spurs pulling away for the victory, Game 1 might turn out to be one of the most talked about Finals games in some time.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough to lift the overnight rating above last year. Game 1 of the 2014 Finals drew a 10.4 overnight rating according to ESPN. This is down slightly from a 10.6 overnight in 2013 and further down from Heat-Thunder Game 1, which drew an 11.8 overnight in 2012. Last night’s game did peak at a 12.7 rating for the closing minutes.
The NBA Finals ratings will again be an interesting story to watch throughout the series. Given the hype surrounding the rematch and the possible three-peat on the line, you would think ratings would naturally be up versus last year. The Spurs are never going to be a big television draw, but the league would have surely hoped that they gained more of a following after the way they played Miami last year and the, yes, exciting brand of basketball they play. Just LeBron’s starpower alone should be enough to send this series higher than it is at the moment. To see ratings down this year compared to last will probably leave the NBA and ESPN scratching their heads a bit.
UPDATE: In spite of the first rating being down, overall viewership was slightly up versus last year. A better sign for ESPN and the NBA. From Bristol…
Viewership for the Miami Heat-San Antonio Spurs NBA Finals rematch is up on ABC, according to Nielsen. Game One averaged 14,846,000 viewers (p2+), up four percent from last year’s 14,241,000 viewers. This year’s audience helped propel ABC to win the night across all of television for the 38th consecutive time. ABC also won the night in all key demos.