nba ratings-nba christmas-nba on abc-houston rockets-oklahoma city thunder

The good news keeps coming from the NBA and its television partners.

ESPN announced Tuesday that overnight ratings for its five Christmas-Day NBA games (including the two that aired on ABC) were up 39 percent from last year’s slate, having increased from 2.8 to 3.9.

The down-to-the-wire Thunder-Rockets game that aired at 8 p.m. ET on ABC drew a 4.1 overnight rating, making it the highest rated Christmas primetime matchup since ABC began airing holiday games in the early 2000s. OKC-Houston was the second most watched contest of the day behind the Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals rematch on ABC, which netted a 5.5 overnight rating, fifth highest ever among early window Christmas games.

The NBA’s Christmas-Day viewership spike probably owed in large part to the quality of the games and the narratives that went with them. In a league dominated by star power, it doesn’t get much better than Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James, Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden, John Wall vs. Kyrie Irving, and Kristaps Porzingis vs. Joel Embiid. (Karl-Anthony Towns vs. um, Lonzo Ball isn’t quite the same, but you get the point.) ESPN and ABC had a Finals rematch, a clash of young stars, a battle of perennial MVP candidates and more.

Overall, this year’s lineup was much more appealing than last year’s. The fact four of the five games Monday were decided by single-digit margins couldn’t have hurt, nor did the fact that three of the four games aired on ABC, compared to last year, when three of the five games aired on ESPN.

Still, the 39 percent bump was likely about more than just intriguing matchups and an extra ABC slot. National NBA viewership in general is surging, with ESPN and TNT’s coverage up 21 percent this season as of last week, per an NBA spokesman. That spike comes after NBA Finals average viewership increased for the third straight year last June. America just can’t get enough pro basketball these days.


About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

  • Brett Graves

    Ok…Can someone explain to me why all this subconscious “pumping up” of the NBA recently and the over zealous bashing of NFL, in terms of ratings? I like both sports so it really doesn’t matter to me as I will watch both. But fact of the matter is, I don’t inherently care about 82 of anything as much as I do about 16. NBA has trained us to watch the playoffs. NFL, obviously more people watch all season. It seems weird to me that is has become NBA versus NFL. That has never been a “thing”. I like both. But I don’t find it to be news that a 3.9 or 5.5 rating is indicative of this larger narrative.

    • Nuri abdil

      Listen i think it’s an effort of ESPN to GLOB on to the NBA brand more internationally. I don’t know a Jack thing about the NFL because it’s a weird sport that i can’t understand. I watch NBA and European Football that’s it. Looking at the size of reddit pages,twitter,Facebook ect…. NBA is a league that is followed globably by young and “ethnic” fans. You watch Embid’s instagram Feeds and BOOM there’s POGBA. It’s just that simple. The NBA will never be bigger than the NFL in the states but I don’t know anything about NFL so.

  • Marlon Nicholson

    I totally agree. It’s not about the NBA VS NFL because at the end of the day the NFL is still king and will be for a long time to come now I can see if it were the 1990s when the NBA was at its best. By the way I still think ESPN’s production and theme music is trash compared to NBC’s roundball rock

  • Brett Graves

    Agreed Marlon. I would like to see the comparisons to the NBA of the 1990’s in here and if it would be “massive”. The adjectives are interesting is all I am saying.

    Listen its easy.. People don’t watch TV as much. NFL is Down 10%. NBA is up 10%. Quarterback play is terrible this year. NBA had great off season with super teams. Fact of the matter is Lebron will not play another 5 years nor will Carmelo Anthony. Also What is true is quarterback play will not be as bad as this year. So there is no hostile takeover occurring with NBA vs NFL.

    Unless MLB or NBA reduce the regular seasons, respectively, there will be no threat to the landscape. People talk about NBA but I feel like MLB has the best young talent. If they got out of their way on reduced the season by a third that would be the league to take over the land. Conversely, if the NBA did the same then that would be the same argument.

    Until that happens all of this “massive” thing is just for clicks.

  • Dale Moog

    Your story was so flawed first you said two games were on ABC when they had three. The only reason the three on ABC is because they had MNF on ESPN last night. ALL five games will be back on ESPN (or ABC) next year. they even got to throw a bone to TNT because of MNF. Also the NBA put the best game on before the NFL Houston VS Pitt game. the one thing I think you failed to do is look at NBA ratings VS NFL ratings yesterday. The early NFL game was a blowout that had to shift people over to the NBA games on ABC plus the MNF game was so sloppy with turnovers and bad play that people left that to watch a close NBA game. the NBA had a good day. but the reason was because of the NFL not the NBA. if you had New Orleans and Atlanta and LA Tennessee on Monday the NBA ratings would have been way lower. Bad NFL games mixed with an extra game on ABC because of MNF mad the ratings better nothing else.

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