While the NBA’s 2020-21 regular season is starting months later than normal thanks to the COVID-19 pause earlier this year and the October finish to the 2019-20 season (which came with much lower Finals ratings than normal), its first night Tuesday drew some impressive ratings for TNT. Here’s the release Turner Sports put out:
TNT delivered the most-watched NBA Opening Night since 2017; @BleacherReport was the #1 most engaged sports media brand across social media platforms for the day. pic.twitter.com/CPVIUgz6nD
— TurnerSportsPR (@TurnerSportsPR) December 23, 2020
One important note here is that 2019’s Opening Night was not as advantageous for TNT in terms of local TV markets, especially with the Toronto Raptors (no local U.S. market) – New Orleans Pelicans (50th in Nielsen’s U.S. designated market areas) opening game. Nets (#1) versus Warriors (#6) is much better on that front. It did also feature Clippers-Lakers (both in the #2 DMA), though, so it’s comparable on that level.
Meanwhile, this summer’s July 30 restart saw the Utah Jazz (#30) facing the Pelicans, then Clippers-Lakers, and the 2018 Opening Night saw the Boston Celtics (#9) facing the Philadelphia 76ers (#4), then the Oklahoma City Thunder (#43) against the Warriors. The 2017 Opening Night, the last one to beat these numbers, saw the Cleveland Cavaliers (#19) against the Celtics, then the Warriors against the Houston Rockets (#8). So having strong local markets on Opening Night definitely helped TNT this year. We’ll see how the ratings go for them as the season progresses.
[Turner Sports PR; photo from Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports]