Jul 6, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) against the Milwaukee Bucks during game one of the 2021 NBA Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The final ratings for Tuesday’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals are in and they’re…not great.

A total of 8.56 million people watched Game 1 between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns. That’s a 35 percent drop from 2019, which was the last time the Finals were held in summer. It’s still not a perfect comparison because the 2019 Finals were held in June and July is historically the month where the fewest people watch TV, but it’s a much closer comparison than last year’s Finals which were played in September/October.

If there is a silver lining for the NBA, it’s because of last year’s Heat-Lakers series. This year’s Game 1 was up 13 percent from last year. That was mainly because just about every sport and TV series was pumping out new content at the same time time so that’s not an entirely fair comparison. Even so, in order to cushion the blow, ESPN PR is going to use that comparison while also pointing out that ABC won all key demos Tuesday night.

As SBJ’s John Ourand pointed out, Game 1 local ratings really dropped among the biggest TV markets and that’s probably the main catalyst for the lower overall number. Down by 56 percent in New York City and Philadelphia, as well as a 51 percent drop in Chicago and 50 percent drop in Washington D.C.

Given the two teams, lower viewership was to be expected. Not to take anything away from Milwaukee or Phoenix or their fanbases because they deserve to be here, but Milwaukee is the 37th biggest market and probably not ideal for Disney. Phoenix is 11th so that helps, but Milwaukee wasn’t going to do the numbers any favors. Include the fact that Tampa had Tropical Storm Elsa coverage that pushed the game off the local ABC affiliate and Phoenix being a solid favorite as Giannis Antetokounmpo comes back from injury, and that’s a recipe for lower viewership.

Maybe if the Bucks win Game 2 in Phoenix, casual fans and those in big cities will take a hint that this is going to be a competitive series and tune in. Though if the Suns take a 2-0 lead, things might get worse before it gets better this year.

[@Ourand_SBJ/ESPN Press Room]

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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