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Friday, July 19, 2024
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NBA Finals Posts Disappointing Game 1 TV Viewership

  • Game 1 viewership for Warriors-Celtics was up over last two COVID-19 delayed Finals.
  • But matchup produced least-watched Game 1 in the Finals typical early-June time slot since 2007.
Jed Jacobsohn/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The matchup of the Golden State Warriors vs. Boston Celtics, and a return to its normal June setting, was supposed to bring the NBA Finals back to pre-pandemic TV levels. But ESPN’s coverage of Game 1 produced disappointing numbers.

Yes, ABC’s telecast of Thursday night’s Game 1 drew more viewers than the past two COVID-delayed Finals. 

But taking those pandemic years out of the equation, it was the least-watched Game 1 in 15 years. Heading into Wednesday night’s Game 3, ESPN and the NBA are hoping for a bounce-back in TV ratings. 

The Celtics’ 120-108 win over the Warriors averaged 11.9 million viewers across ABC and ESPN2. 

That’s up 37% from last season’s Game 1 between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns — which didn’t take place until July 6, 2021 due to COVID delays. 

But it was the least-watched Game 1 in the Finals’ typical early-June time frame since the San Antonio Spurs vs. Cleveland Cavaliers averaged 9.2 million viewers in 2007.  

The telecast peaked at 13 million viewers at 10:45 p.m. ET. It helped ABC win the night across all key demographics.

The game averaged a 19.6 rating in the Boston TV market, making it the highest-rated NBA game in the Boston market since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018.

The game drew a 22.5 rating in the San Francisco market, making it the highest-rated since Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals. 

After testing positive for COVID, ABC/ESPN’s play-by-play announcer Mike Breen is expected to return for Game 3 alongside analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson and sideline reporter Lisa Salters.

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