Episodes 7 and 8 of The Last Dance averaged 5.1 million viewers across ESPN and ESPN2 on Sunday night, with episode 7 averaging 5.3 million viewers, and episode 8 averaging 4.9 million viewers.

Overall, the docuseries — focusing on the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, and especially Michael Jordan — has averaged 5.6 million viewers across its eight premiere episodes.

Here’s more, from the ESPN press release:

“The Last Dance” continues to be viewed by an extensive audience week after week, averaging 5.6 million viewers across premieres of its first eight episodes, based on initial Nielsen reporting. The significant audiences across four separate Sundays is 57% more viewers than the next-closest documentary debut on ESPN (“You Don’t Know Bo” in 2012). On Sunday, May 10th, Episodes 7 and 8 averaged 5.1 million viewers across ESPN & ESPN2 from 9-11 p.m. ET, with episode 7 (9-10 p.m.) averaging 5.3 million viewers and episode 8 (10-11 p.m.) averaging 4.9 million viewers, based on initial Nielsen reporting. 

The top five metered markets for episodes 7 and 8 included: Chicago (11.6 rtg), Greensboro, N.C. (5.7 rtg.), Raleigh-Durham (4.6 rtg.), Nashville (4.4 rtg.), and Columbus (4.2 rtg.).

Episode 8 is the first time a premiere of The Last Dance has averaged under five million viewers, and each week has seen a slight dip in numbers.

Week 1 premieres: 6.3 million for episode 1, 5.8 million for episode 2; 6.1 million average.

Week 2 premieres: 6.1 million for episode 3, 5.7 million for episode 4; 5.9 million average.

Week 3 premieres: 5.8 million for episode 5, 5.2 million for episode 6; 5.5 million average.

Week 4 premieres: 5.3 million for episode 7, 4.9 million for episode 8; 5.1 million average.

However, the weekly premiere ratings declining as the season of a TV series goes on isn’t exactly a unique trend, and there’s frequently a sizable boost in viewership for a season finale. Maybe the ratings shoot back up for next week’s final two episodes of The Last Dance.

And all of these ratings are still great in the grand scheme of things. They’re record-setting documentary ratings for ESPN. Even the 4.9-million mark from episode 8 of The Last Dance still blows away ESPN’s previous documentary ratings record of 3.6 million, set by You Don’t Know Bo in 2012.

Additionally, when the on-demand, DVR, and re-airing numbers are factored in, The Last Dance numbers look particularly impressive. According to the press release, episodes 1-6 of The Last Dance have an average viewership of 12.2 million when accounting for all airings:

Episode 1 13,748,000
Episode 2 13,891,000
Episode 3 12,646,000
Episode 4 13,189,000
Episode 5 10,255,000
Episode 6 9,378,000

The Last Dance concludes with episodes 9 and 10 premiering Sunday, May 19 on ESPN and ESPN2.

About Matt Clapp

Matt is an editor at The Comeback. He attended Colorado State University, wishes he was Saved by the Bell's Zack Morris, and idolizes Larry David. And loves pizza and dogs because obviously.

He can be followed on Twitter at @Matt2Clapp (also @TheBlogfines for Cubs/MLB tweets and @DaBearNecess for Bears/NFL tweets), and can be reached by email at mclapp@thecomeback.com.