Sunday’s game between the Cavaliers and Warriors had just about every single thing you’d want from a high-profile NBA event. The first matchup of the season between two teams that competed in a thrilling NBA Finals just six months ago. Two of the three best records in the league this season. Arguably the three best players in the NBA. A close game with a dramatic finish.
According to ESPN, the game generated a 5.9 overnight rating, tying Knicks-Lakers from 2012 as the best rating in the Christmas afternoon time slot in 12 years, since Heat-Lakers in 2004. Per Sports Media Watch, this was up 48 percent from last year’s Bulls-Thunder bout last year and Thunder-Spurs in 2014. Cavs-Warriors drew an 18.4 rating in Cleveland and a 15.1 in San Francisco.
Outside of Cavs-Warriors, which could have pulled a huge rating if it were on at 3 a.m. on CSPAN, the Christmas quintuple-header didn’t get overwhelming viewership.
According to SMW, the noon matchup between the Celtics and Bulls on ESPN drew a 2.4 rating, slightly up from that slot last year and the best rating in the slot since 2012.
Bulls-Spurs, which aired at 5 p.m. on ABC, got only a 3.4 overnight rating, the worst of any Christmas game on ABC since at least 2007, thanks largely to direct competition from the NFL.
The nighttime double-header on ESPN did poorly as well, with Timberwolves-Thunder getting a 1.0 and Clippers-Lakers a 1.1, per SMW. Again, going up against the NFL did not help the cause.