NBA Finals Viewership Down by 45%, Lowest Since 1994

LeBron James
Getty Images/Sean M. Haffey

One would think that having the American sports world’s most popular athlete playing in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, would equal impressive ratings.

Well, one would be wrong. One would in fact be very wrong indeed.

Instead of posting the good, if not great numbers that the NBA should have drawn for a Game 1 Finals clash including with millions at home on lockdown and LeBron James on the floor, the NBA saw a catastrophic drop in both ratings and viewership.

According to the Hollywood Reporter:

The opening game of the series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat brought 7.41 million viewers to ABC, the smallest audience for the finals since at least 1994, when total viewers began to be regularly recorded. The previous low was 8.06 million for Game 3 of the 2007 NBA Finals.

The game, which took place about four months later than the usual start date for the NBA Finals, was down by about 45 percent in total viewers vs. the U.S. audience for last year’s finals opener between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors. The two conference finals series that wrapped up last week were down a collective 35 percent year to year. The NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals series, also delayed by several months, was down by more than 60 percent for NBC Sports. Major League Baseball has also struggled during its shortened season.

Massive declines in viewership and ratings are nothing new for the NBA. Since the league restarted its season with a full embrace of social justice activism, the NBA has suffered huge drops in numbers. A counter-intuitive development for a league that restarted after fans had been starved for sports for five months and much of the country was at home due to coronavirus.

However, it seems much of the country found the NBA’s focus on politics to be a major turn off.

In early September, a Harris poll found that most fans were watching fewer games because the NBA had become “too political.”


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