The NBA Finals may be an entertaining, competitive series, but that hasn’t attracted highs in American viewership.
Game 3 continued the trend of disappointing U.S. viewership with a 10.0 overnight, down from the overnights in both Game 1 (10.2) and Game 2 (10.1). The 10.0 is also down by more than 20% from both 2018 (21%) and 2017 (25%). It’s tied with Heat-Spurs Game 3 in 2013 (a 113-77 Spurs victory) for the lowest Game 3 number since 2007 (Spurs-Cavaliers, 7.8) and the lowest NBA Finals number of any kind since 2009 (Magic-Lakers Game 1, 8.9).
🏀#NBAFinals on ABC is expected to win the night across TV for the 67th straight time. (Nielsen)
📺Game 3 drew a strong 10.0 overnight rtg, making it the 55th straight time ABC has generated a double-digit overnight rating for an NBA Finals broadcast
🆚Game 4 Fri at 9 p.m. ET pic.twitter.com/Xxu9LujcDd
— Ben Cafardo (@Ben_ESPN) June 6, 2019
The reasons for the decline have been stated time and time again, including the Canadian market in the series, the lack of LeBron James, and a general drop in NBA viewership on national networks this season.
This isn’t good news when it comes to an increasingly competitive series. The Finals haven’t been a showcase for the steamrolling Warriors, which we’ve seen in numerous other Golden State playoff series over the last five years. The Raptors are actually leading the series 2-1, and are one incredible Warriors run in Game 2 away from being up 3-0. They’ve been the better team, and you’d think the drama would be captivating the audience and drawing more viewers. Thus far, that hasn’t happened.
Casual viewers will likely end up watching as the series moves towards its conclusion, and that’ll help increase the viewership. The longer the series goes, the better the overall numbers will be, and the worst case scenario for ESPN and the NBA would be a Raptors win in five.