Thursday, May 28th, 2009 at 2:51 pm  |  30 responses

NBA Continues to Dominate U.S. TV Ratings

by Ryne Nelson

Baseball is slumping. Hockey doesn’t stand a chance. College and pro football are out of season. Spelling bees, um… yeah.

Not only has bball drawn strong audiences in the Conference Finals, it’s setting all-time viewer records. To give some perspective, Game 4s of the Lakers/Nuggets and Cavs/Magic series out-performed the five network stations in similar time slots. Monday’s Lakers/Nuggets matchup drew 9.88 million viewers and a 6.9 national rating among adults 18-49, annihilating ABC’s The Bachelorette and NBC’s Dateline. Game 4 was easily ESPN’s most-viewed basketball game ever as well as the most viewed game on cable in history.

But the record was short-lived as TNT’s telecast the following night of the Magic’s OT Game 4 win averaged 10.1 million watchers and a 6.3 national rating in the key demos. Chaps, Game 4 was the most-watched show on cable this year! Although reeling from the summer transition, this Game 4′s audience closely rivaled CBS’ encore combination of bona fide hits NCIS and The Mentalist. Not bad at all. Via MultiChannel:

NBA fans may or may not get to see Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers meet LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in The Finals, but viewers are certainly tuning in to the conference finals.

After ESPN set a record for most-viewed NBA playoff game in cable history Monday night, TNT donned the crowd Tuesday with its coverage of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

For the Playoffs, ESPN is up 16 percent in viewers compared to last season, and TNT is up 20 percent. ESPN’s ratings are up 10 percent, and TNT’s ratings are up 12 percent nationally. The two networks are up in every other key demo imaginable.

As the economy twists itself back in the right direction, people are finding time for escapism — returning to old comforts. Needless to say, when old basketball fans turn on hoops this year, they like what they see. We may not be in the Golden Age anymore, but the NBA certainly has climbed out of its mid-decade Dark Age.

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  • Babygab

    1st !

  • Harold

    Bout Time Basketball made a comeback. The Greatest Sport On Earth

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    It’s hard to compare 3:06 basketball games to hour-long shows like NCIS and The Mentalist, I know. That said, I’d like to see the half-hour breakdown of the Cavs/Magic Game 4. I’m sure it was *killing* those shows during its final hour.

  • messofelegance

    no comparison son.

  • NACHOveli

    Love to hear that the ratings are great for these playoffs. But one of the biggest reasons why the ratings are up? You guessed it, no dirty Spurs around to muck things up. The spurs are ratings poison!

  • jonesy

    Ratings are up and its all about the talent! One of you guys that likes to make lists should rack and stack the potential future HOF’ers and all-star caliber players in these conference finals.

    Great product = great ratings!

  • messofelegance

    @NACHOveli – i like the way you think. texas sucks as a whole.

  • http://lastknickstanding.blogspot.com Bryan

    Imagine if people could actually watch the players play and decide games how high the ratings would be.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    @messofelegance:You’re right. Jon & Kate Plus 8 is the better comparison. ;)

  • TexMex0

    Oh man, this makes me want to live in America, just for the Playoffs, i’m french, so the games are at 2:30 AM, and even when they’re at 9PM, no channel is broadcasting them, we only have two games per week on TV, except for the NBA Finals for which all the games are broadcast… at 3AM…
    Enjoy the games, cause us french people only get to watch the highlights on NBA.com…

  • http://www.myspace.com/freedmusic Fredd

    I’m a lil surprised 10 million is not a lot …
    I mean … here in France the n°1 sport is soccer … and good games easily match this amount of viewers ( sad cos’ I love NBA not soccer ) …
    I mean, we’re only 60 million french .. so … a so so BIG country like the USA … how is it possible to only get 10 million on a (so great) sport like basketball ?

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Fredd, there are about 700 other channels on cable. The days of everyone watching one show are over… other than the Super Bowl.

  • niQ

    Because of the economy, people are saving money. instead of going, they stay in and watch the ball game. not a bad idea :P

  • http://www.twitter.com/TheDiesel Anton

    Hannah Montanah is gonna have to show a lot more than nips to compare with the dopeness of NBA.

  • madamerica

    No matter who plays, when you have great series, people should tune in. But they don’t always. I started to think a Magic-Nuggets Finals would be the most fun.

  • Scruffz

    10 million? Doesn’t sound like much to me.

    And for the record, I’d argue that the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been way more exciting than the NBA playoffs. Ratings don’t necessarily tell the whole story.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    The economy’s headed back in the right direction? Since when? I just figured a lot of unemployed people are sitting home and watching TV.

  • http://www.lebronsucks.com nate the great

    which is still why i think the conspiracy is going on.
    look at those numbers.
    imagine the finals with lebron vs kobe.

  • http://http//www.youtube.com The Promise

    I dont watch much else on TV besides the NBA anyways..

  • Mike

    Only thing that is holding them back from the golden Age is the refs. TRUE STORY.

  • http://www.myspace.com/freedmusic Fredd

    @Ryan: thank you for the answer … of course it could sound a lil naive from me … but … damn ” 700 ” ! channels …. wao … a lot of these channels must just do the same as the others … I mean … copy each others … but .. waoo … it’s a looooot …. by the way, I agree with you, the super bowl seems to be the last ” universal ” event to attract so many people on one night … as the final of the world cup in soccer

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sesa-Opas/738856357 Sesa

    Then it would be great if both conference final is goin’ to the 7th game. Watch for Cavs and The Nuggets win the next game

  • scorp99cam

    Too bad the casual fans are getting so turned off by the refs. How did the Donaghy situation not change anything? I love the NBA, but they are killing the game.

  • don

    i’ve set my tv to the channel that broadcasts the NBA games, then i hid the remote somewhere, purposely forgetting where buried it until midway june when i see the FINALS MVP hoising up the championshiop trophy.

  • ka

    mental picture of stern jerking off to this news
    what has typed cannot be untyped

  • http://www.laumol.nl/weblog Laumol

    Ratings would even by higher if the NBA allowed netwerks across the world to show the games. In Europe it is hard to find a game that’s aired for free. I’ve gotta pay (and pay handsome) to see a game. David ‘Scrooge’ Stern wants the game to go global? Then lower the prices for broadcasting NBA games.

  • Prentice


    I think its probably the networks that prevent more countries picking up the games, I have talked to a couple of broadcasters in the UK and the general opinion is that they charge too much for games, and the demand doesn’t justify paying.

    Stern should start negotiating with them though because if the NBA was broadcast regularly across Europe then the popularity of the game would only keep growing.


  • bill breedley

    ratings are up thanks to the exciting start to the playoffs with the bulls stretching the celts. lakers making the rockets series interesting and the nuggets and magic putting up a tough stand in the conference finals.

  • ab_40

    don’t call it a comeback

    sorry had the I pod on shuffle couldn’t help myself haha