As the NBA is now fully into the postseason, the Association’s national television partners are happy over their viewership for the regular season. ABC, ESPN, NBA TV and TNT all saw increases in the 2015-16 regular season as opposed to the previous season. A lot of that had to do with the Golden State Warriors which led the way in viewership among the teams receiving national appearances on ABC, ESPN and TNT this season.

ABC had the biggest viewership of the four national partners according to Paulsen at Sports Media Watch:

ABC led the way with a 2.3 rating and 3.9 million for 16 telecasts, up a tick in ratings and 9% in viewership from last year (2.2, 3.6M) and flat and up 10%, respectively, from 2013-14 (2.3, 3.6M). Its eight Saturday night broadcasts averaged a 2.1 and 3.5 million.

This being the first year for Saturday night primetime broadcasts, the audience for those games helped to increase ABC’s ratings and viewership from its slate of Sunday afternoon games and its Christmas Day game.

As for the cable partners, SMW notes that the numbers were up for them as well:

“… ESPN averaged a 1.1 and 1.7 million for 76 telecasts — up a tick in ratings and 10% in viewership from last year (1.0, 1.5M) and flat and down 2%, respectively, from 2013-14 (1.68M to 1.65M). TNT’s 52-game schedule also averaged 1.7 million, up 1% from last year but down 11% from 2013-14. NBA TV averaged 345,000, up 19% from last year and its highest total since becoming Nielsen rated in 2010.”

Some highlights for the season:

  • ABC had its highest non-Christmas Day regular season viewership since 2014 for the Oklanhoma City-Golden State game which averaged 5.322 million viewers.
  • ESPN’s highest non-Christmas Day regular season viewership in two years was Golden State’s record-setting 73rd win last week which had almost 3.65 million viewers.
  • And the most-watched NBA regular season game on any network this season was the Christmas Day NBA Finals rematch between Cleveland and Golden State on ABC which averaged a whopping 11.160 million viewers and was the fourth most-watched regular season NBA game ever.

You should be noticing in the last three items that the ratings have been driven by the Warriors who have been the main attraction for the NBA this season. SMW notes:

The Warriors fueled this year’s increases, averaging a league-best 3.0 million viewers for 30 nationally televised games (not including NBA TV). The Cavaliers ranked second with 2.6 million for 25. Golden State played in ten of the 17 most-watched games this season, including the most-watched regular season game since 2011 and the two most-watched non-Christmas games since 2013. 

So the NBA’s network partners are just tickled pink and they know as long as the Warriors remain in the postseason, they’ll be a huge draw for fans wanting to see if they can repeat as NBA Champions and set history once again in 2016.

[Sports Media Watch/ESPN]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.