Another blast certainly didn’t help, but Game 2 of the NBA Finals put out the same frustrated audience as Game 1.
On Sunday, Celtics-Warriors NBA Finals Game 2 averaged 6.2 and 11.91 million viewers on ABC, topping just the last two off seasons as the lowest in a Game 2 of the NBA Finals since 2007 (Cavaliers-Tottenham: 5.6, 8.55 m). Compared to Game 1 on ABC and ESPN2, ratings are down from 6.4 and viewership is up from 11.90 million.
Golden State’s easy win, which peaked at 14.14 million viewers relatively early in the night (9:45 p.m. ET), dropped 23% in ratings and 14% in viewership from the slick Warriors-Raptors 2 three years ago ( 8.0, 13.89 million), both the previous Warriors Show Finals and previous Finals would have taken place at the normal time of the year. Keep in mind that overall prime-time viewing levels are down 26% from the same period in 2019.
Compared to Game 2 in last year’s Bucks-Suns NBA Finals, which took place in July, ratings increased 21% and viewership increased 24%. Compared to Heat-Lakers 2 in “Bubble” two years ago — which not only took place in October, but aired the night the President of the United States was hospitalized with COVID-19 — ratings rose 71% (from 3.6) and viewership up to 79% (from 6.67 million *).
Since the NBA’s return from a hiatus nearly two years ago, Game 2 has been ranked second in viewership among all games after last year’s Suns-Bucks 6 win (12.52 million*).
There were a number of factors pointing to a stronger performance for this year’s finals. The match combines the league’s biggest draw against its most storied franchise, both of which hail from the top ten media markets. It has the advantage of outdoor viewing, which is not included in viewership from 2019 or previous years. On top of that, Posteason’s previous rounds have only lasted two years, with viewership hitting an eight-year high during the semifinals.
The erosion of TV viewing is certainly a factor in the other direction. After the 26% drop in prime-time viewing levels, there has been a 15% drop in pay-TV subscriptions since June 2019 (while ABC is an over-the-air network, most viewers access it through streaming or cable providers) . However, it’s hard to reconcile the double-digit declines from 2019 – which included a Canadian team that doesn’t count in the US TV ratings – with what is, on paper, a noticeably stronger match.
Game 2 has a rating of 3.7 in adults ages 18 to 49, a mark behind Game’s combined number of 1 (3.8). He also charted 3.05 in 18-34 (up from 3.03 for Game 1) and 4.15 in 25-54 (down from 4.20 for Game 1). In all three shows, Games 1 and 2 have ranked first on television since the men’s fourth final.
As with Game 1, Game 2 overtook the corresponding match in last year’s World Championship, albeit a less significant match between Atlanta and Houston (5.8, 10.43 million*).
(An asterisk * indicates that this number is under revision due to a lower Nielsen count.)
[Nielsen estimates from ShowBuzz Daily 6.7 a, b]