This year’s NBA Finals between the Warriors and Cavaliers had everything you could ever hope for if you wanted a recipe for monster ratings.
The NBA’s two biggest stars in Steph Curry and LeBron James? Check.
A rematch from last year’s Finals that were a ratings bonanza? Check.
The city of Cleveland still looking for that elusive championship? Check.
The team with the greatest regular season record in NBA history looking to cement their status as one of the all-time greats? Check.
Outside of Michael Jordan suiting up alongside King James, this was the absolute best the NBA could hope for… except for one thing.
The games themselves have kinda stunk.
Through the first three games of the 2016 NBA Finals, the average margin of victory has been a whopping 26 PPG. TWENTY SIX POINTS PER GAME! Forget the worries about east coasters having to stay up and burn the midnight oil, these games are over by the time the sun goes down… which is sometime in the second quarter. There was a 63 point turnaround from Game 2 to Game 3. How is that even possible? How can that be blamed entirely on Kevin Love? (I’m not sure it can but there will certainly be people that try.)
Naturally, the viewership has taken a step back from last year. Although given the historic nature of the non-competitiveness in each game thus far, perhaps the NBA and ABC/ESPN should be feeling pretty good about these numbers:
The 2016 NBA Finals is the second-most watched ever on ABC through three games, according to Nielsen. The series is averaging 17,702,000 viewers, (p2+).
Last night’s NBA Finals Game 3 – the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors by 30 points (120-90) – was the second-most watched NBA Finals Game 3 ever on ABC. It averaged 16,465,000 viewers and peaked with 18,764,000 viewers from 10-10:15 p.m. ET.
The NBA Finals on ABC won the night across all of television for the 51st consecutive time.
By comparison, last year’s Game 3 drew an average of 18.8 million viewers. And if the game telecast is peaking before halftime, that’s never a good sign from a television perspective. Again by comparison, last year’s Game 3 peaked with an audience of 23.5 million at 11:30 PM ET.
If this series had played three close games (like last year’s Finals) then I’m sure the 2016 version would surpass 2015’s stellar numbers. In spite of that, the fact that it’s the second highest rated Finals only behind last year is a moral victory for ESPN/ABC and the NBA.
Honestly though, it would be nice just to see one close game to gauge how high the viewership could climb.