Viewership Numbers for the NBA Finals Are Historic, Historically Awful

Getty Images_Kevin C. Cox (9)
Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox

It was easy to tell from the initial game-by-game viewership numbers for the 2020 NBA Finals, that the league was headed for historic ratings futility. Though, it’s still incredible that it ever go this bad.

As Ryan Glasspiegel at Outkick reports, the game-by-game viewership drops compared to the 2019 Finals are beyond bad.

Game 1 of the 2020 Finals was down 45.15 percent from 2019, Game 2 was down 52.95, Game 3 was even worse at 55.80, Game 4 slightly increased to a still bad 42.71, Game 5 back down 51.53, and Game 6 came in at 50.79.

The average viewership number of 7.45 million is the lowest number on record.

As Glasspiegel writes:

Yes, there are a number of variables affecting the numbers for the NBA. It is playing out of season. There were no fans at the games and it makes the viewing experience feel less communal. There is a glut of live sports and only so many hours in the week with which to watch them, even if they’re not in direct competition. Game 6 went up against NFL’s Sunday Night Football game between the Vikings and Seahawks, which averaged 15.1 million viewers. (You read that right: regular season NFL in primetime nearly doubles Game 6 of the NBA Finals featuring LeBron and the Lakers.)

I also want to be fair and give Adam Silver and the NBA tremendous credit for pulling off the bubble. There were zero positive tests and the quality of play was consistently excellent. It would be revisionist history to say everyone thought this would succeed. Read these stories from USA Today and CNBC if you want to remember the profound skepticism about their plans.

While all true, this was still a Finals series that had the game’s biggest star, arguable the game’s most nationally popular franchise, and a huge percentage of the country on lockdown, and still tanked. To be fair, NFL numbers are down this year as well. But they’re only down ten percent, they’re not down 50%! And that’s comparing the NFL regular season versus the NBA’s championship series.

The NBA restarted its season with a focus on social justice activism. A focus that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver admits may have turned fans off.

“Recently, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that next year the NBA will likely not feature the on-court social justice displays that have become commonplace this season,” Breitbart Sports reported. “The commissioner also says he understands that fans just want to see a basketball game, and not by subjected to social justice messaging.”

Recent polling backs up the commissioner’s concern.

As Breitbart’s Warner Todd Huston reports:

This horrific collapse should not be surprising after polls have found that many fans now believe that basketball is far too political.

A September 2 Harris poll found that 39 percent of respondent who identified as sports fans felt that the league was too political. And another 19 percent said that they had turned off pro basketball because of the NBA’s deep links to China.

The 2020 post-COVID season launched with the heavy-handed presence of the anti-American Black Lives Matter agenda.

The Lakers won their championship 17th franchise championship against the Miami Heat in six games.


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