The NBA is on a hot streak right now, and its television partners have been the prime beneficiaries.
Austin Karp of Sports Business Daily reported Tuesday that the first round of the NBA postseason averaged 3.15 million viewers across the five networks it aired on, up 2 percent from last year and the best of any first round since 2014. Meanwhile, regional sports networks carrying the playoffs saw viewership rise 17 percent, per Karp.
1st round NBA Playoffs: average of 3.15 million viewers across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, NBA TV. Best since 2014. +2% from 2017. NBA 1st round playoff games won the night on cable TV on 12 of 15 nights. Regional sports networks also saw game audiences spike 17% in 1st round
— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) May 1, 2018
Also on Tuesday, Turner Sports announced that TNT and NBATV had individually delivered their best first-round playoff viewership since 2014. TNT averaged 3.6 million viewers for its 23 telecasts, up 5 percent from 2017, while NBATV averaged 505,000 for its six games, up 12 percent from last year. Additionally, TNT’s Inside the NBA averaged 1.7 million viewers, up 9 percent from last year and its highest figure since 2015.
The playoffs helped TNT become the top cable network in primetime over a two-week period, which is not unusual for this time of year but is impressive nonetheless.
Ratings have been strong across the board throughout the NBA postseason, as every rightsholder has benefited from close series and compelling storylines — and particularly from LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers playing a surprisingly competitive seven-game set against the Pacers. Game 4 of that matchup, on TNT, was the most-watched first-round contest on cable since 2012, while Game 7 on ABC was the most-watched opening-round game on any network since 2004. Per Sports Media Watch, Games 1, 4 and 7 of Cavs-Pacers delivered the three biggest audiences of the first round.
Will the NBA’s robust ratings continue moving forward in the postseason? It sure seems possible. All four second-round series feature superstar players and interesting teams, and the conference finals could pit Steph Curry and Kevin Durant against James Harden and Chris Paul on one side; and LeBron (sorry Toronto fans, just a hypothetical) against a big-market rival on the other. In other words, it’s a good time to have NBA games on your network.