The NBA Playoffs just had their best and most exciting first round in league history. Five Game 7s. Eight overtime games. Multiple dramatic buzzer beaters. Series winning threes at the buzzer and series ending blocked shots (from Paul Pierce of all people). Both #1 seeds were pushed to the limit, OKC and Memphis played an absurd four straight overtime games.
The Stanley Cup usually has the reputation of being the more unpredictable and exciting postseason between the NBA and NHL. So often, the NBA’s first round feels like playing out the string when we know only a select few have a realistic chance at the title. That’s certainly not the case this year as for the first time in a long time, the NBA has matched the NHL in playoff uncertainty and drama. The NBA could not have asked for much more on the court from the first round of the playoffs.
Viewers have clearly responded and Turner Sports is the central beneficiary.
NBA TV’s coverage of the NBA Playoffs rose a massive 237% from this year to last. The network’s seven playoff games averaged 720,000 viewers. Additionally, NBA TV had its two most watched games of all-time: Pacers/Hawks Game 6 scored 1,071,000 viewers besting the previous high set by OKC-Memphis Game 5 days earlier at 939,000 viewers.
TNT also saw ratings increases as well. From the network press release:
TNT’s coverage of the 2014 NBA Playoffs delivered the network’s most-viewed and highest-rated first round since 2011, with an average of 4,009,000 total viewers and a 2.6 U.S. HH rating for 26 live game telecasts, based on Nielsen Fast Nationals. The network’s viewership is up 19% and its U.S. HH rating has increased 13% when compared with last year’s opening round averages (3,374,000 total viewers; 2.3 U.S. HH rating).
The 2014 NBA Playoffs have propelled TNT to win the night in primetime across all of cable television 11 times among the coveted Men 18-34 and Men 18-49 demos and seven times among total viewers. The network televised nine of the top 10 most-viewed NBA Playoff games airing on cable through the first round.
Furthermore, the 6.0 million viewers for Clippers-Warriors Game 7 was the most watched first round game for the network since Lakers-Nuggets in 2012. The Saturday tripleheader of Game 7s averaged 5.1 million viewers in total.
The NBA has to be very pleased with where the playoffs stand at the moment. The league has had its share of disappointments during the regular season on television with ratings juggernauts like the Lakers, Celtics, and Knicks having down seasons. However, if the next rounds are as compelling as the first round was, there should be no shortage of viewers flocking to the playoffs.