Both the NBA and NHL playoffs kicked into high gear over the weekend, and the ratings were, in a word, good.
Let’s start with the NBA, where a bunch of close games and compelling storylines have generated some strong viewership:
- According to Sports Media Watch, the first day of the NBA playoffs on Saturday averaged a 2.7 overnight on ESPN/ABC, up 17 percent from 2017 and the highest figure since 2013.
- All four games Saturday were up from last year. The biggest jump came from the Sixers-Heat Game 1, which posted a 2.9 overnight on ESPN, up 26 percent from last year’s comparable game and 32 percent from 2016’s, becoming the network’s highest rated opening-weekend game in metered markets since 2012.
- Sunday’s NBA ratings weren’t quite as strong, but were solid nonetheless. ABC’s lone game (Pacers-Cavs) was up from last year, per Sports Media Watch, while two of the three games on TNT were down from last year but Celtics-Bucks improved 22 percent on the comparable Game 1 in 2017.
- Overall, a good start for the NBA playoffs, after a season in which the league’s viewership spiked on both ESPN/ABC and Turner.
Now on to the NHL:
- The four Stanley Cup playoff games on NBC over the weekend averaged a 1.39 overnight rating, up 25% vs. opening weekend coverage on the network last year.
- Through Sunday, NHL playoff broadcasts on NBC networks had averaged a 0.60 overnight rating, up seven percent as compared to the first five days of the playoffs last year.
- As Sports Media Watch points out, Penguins-Flyers has pulled especially strong numbers. After Friday’s Game 1 on NBCSN drew 715,000 viewers (up 51 percent from 2017), Sunday’s Game 2 landed a 1.62 overnight rating on NBC, up 33 percent from last year and the largest audience for an opening-weekend playoff game since 2015.
Obviously, there are a lot of variables here — from quality of matchups to quality of games to competition on other networks and on and on — so we won’t draw any sweeping conclusions from just a few days of games. But with most marquee teams and compelling storylines in both leagues, the coming weeks could very well bring more good ratings news for the NBA and NHL.