LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers failed to make the playoffs this year and many thought the NBA ratings would take a hit. But the opposite is happening as the league is seeing playoff ratings soar with the sullen James to bring everyone down.
The NBA’s playoff ratings are currently at a four-year high with James and the Lakers out while ESPN saw a huge jump in the ratings, 28% over last year, for its first-round games.
According to Nielsen, the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs averaged 3.48 million viewers across TNT, ABC, and ESPN. This is the best performance since 2018. It isn’t just James’ absence that is helping, Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors returned to the playoffs after two years of missing out due to injuries.
Stefan Bondy, a reporter for the New York Daily News, said: “ESPN says its ratings for the first round of the NBA playoffs were the highest since 2014. That’s up 28% from last year.”
ESPN says its ratings for the first round of the NBA playoffs were the highest since 2014. That’s up 28% from last year.— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) May 3, 2022
Boston’s sweep of Brooklyn averaged 4.83 million viewers, topping the five-game Warriors-Nuggets set by some 563,400 viewers while earning bragging rights as the most-watched opening-round series since 2016.
Impressions were distributed proportionately across the broadcast and cable nets, with ABC averaging 4.56 million viewers over the course of its first five games, while ESPN (3.35 million) edged TNT by a negligible 60,000-viewer margin.
All told, the Disney nets were up 17% versus 2021 and improved nearly 20% compared to 2019, while TNT saw its first-round impressions grow 13% and 18%, respectively.
Thus far, all of this comes as welcome news to NBA advertisers, who in the most recent upfront bazaar paid premiums of 20% or more versus the year-ago rates for in-game playoff inventory.
For the networks, those rate hikes could add up to a fortune; if the stars are all aligned (read: the Warriors advance to the Finals and a handful of late series go the full seven games), postseason ad revenue should easily eclipse the $800 million mark.
From Sports Media Watch:
Two weeks after the most-watched first round Game 1 in 20 years, the NBA delivered its most-watched semifinal Game 1 in 11.
Sunday’s Warriors-Grizzlies second round NBA playoff Game 1 averaged a 4.1 rating and 7.71 million viewers on ABC, marking the largest audience for a semifinal opener since Celtics-Heat in 2011 (9.17M) and the highest rated and most-watched NBA telecast outside of the Finals since Clippers-Lakers on Christmas Day 2019 (4.6, 8.76M).
Golden State’s narrow win delivered the largest NBA playoff audience outside of the Finals since Game 4 of the 2019 Warriors-Blazers Western Conference Finals (7.79M) and ABC’s largest playoff audience outside of the Finals since Game 1 of the 2017 Warriors-Spurs Western Conference Finals (8.13M).
Ratings and viewership jumped by more than a third from last year’s equivalent window (Mavericks-Clippers Game 7: 3.0, 5.49M*). Compared to Warriors-Rockets Game 1 in 2019, Golden State’s previous second round opener, ratings slipped 9% (from 4.5) but viewership increased 6% (from 7.26M). Keep in mind out-of-home viewing was not included in Nielsen viewership estimates in 2019.
Warriors-Grizzlies:— Sports Media Watch (@paulsen_smw) May 3, 2022
— most-watched semi Game 1 since 2011 (BOS-MIA)
— most-watched NBA game outside of the Finals since Christmas '19 (LAC-LAL)
— most-watched playoff game outside of the Finals since '19 WCF (GS-POR)
— most-watched Grizzlies game everhttps://t.co/pT3BGZIhAt