The television ratings of the 2015 NBA Finals skyrocketed past every other series played since the Michael Jordan-era.
The average of 19.939 million viewers for the six games between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers reached the largest audience since 1998, when Jordan and the Chicago Bulls drew an average of 29.040 million viewers as they defeated the Utah Jazz in six games.
More than 23 million viewers watched the sixth and final game of the Warriors-Cavs series on ABC, and 5.5 million more tuned in at its climax, when 28.744 million viewers watched ABC in the contest’s final moments. The ultimate game garnered a 15.9 overnight rating, 8% higher than the last time the NBA Finals reached a sixth game, in 2013. ESPN reported that the 2015 Finals audience, which averaged an 11.6 household rating, surpassed every NBA Finals ABC has ever broadcast, starting in 2002. The Hollywood Reporter stated that the series averaged a 13.9 rating, 31% higher than the 10.6 rating in 2014.
Last year’s Game Five between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Head averaged 15.5 million viewers. The 2013 Finals, a six-game affair between the same two teams, averaged 17.7 million viewers.
In San Francisco, the sixth game of this year’s Finals reached a 40.7 rating; the highest level for any NBA game in that city since records started being kept in 2002. In Cleveland, the last game reached an even-higher 42.0 rating.
According to ESPN, the 2015 NBA Finals drew an average of 757,000 unique viewers on WatchESPN, 102% higher than the 2014 Finals, and the highest level ever for WatchESPN. The pre-game show NBA Countdown averaged roughly 5.5 million viewers for the series, 21% higher than 2014.
Sports Illustrated listed the top 10 markets and their household ratings: Cleveland (43.7), San Francisco (32.8), Columbus (23.4), Memphis (19.5), Sacramento (18.9), Miami-Ft. Lauderdale (17.7), Norfolk (17.2), Atlanta (16.6), San Antonio (15.4), and Richmond-Petersburg (15.4).
The audience for the sixth game of the NBA Finals could conceivably have swollen even more. The game faced-off against the U.S. National team’s 1-0 victory over Nigeria in the Women’s World Cup that aired on FOX. That game, starting an hour before the NBA Finals, was watched by 5 million viewers, making it the third-highest viewed women’s soccer match ever.