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NBA Playoffs Is Most-Watched in Five Years, But Finals Lag

  • NBA playoff viewership reached a five-year high after especially strong early-round ratings.
  • Nuggets-Heat on ABC was the least-watched non-COVID year NBA Finals since 2007.
Nuggets-Heat was the least-watched non-COVID year Finals since 2007.
Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
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The 2023 NBA Playoffs across ABC, ESPN, and TNT averaged 5.47 million viewers per game broadcast, making it the league’s most-watched postseason in five years.

Rating highlights for this year’s NBA playoffs include Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics, which averaged 11.9 million viewers as TNT’s most-watched ECF game ever and its third-most watched NBA game ever. Game 6 of that series on TNT was the most-watched ECF Game 6 on any network in 11 years.

Playoff broadcasts (36 games) on ESPN platforms increased by two percent from 2022 and ranked as the network’s most-watched NBA playoffs since 2019, with 6.39 million average viewers. Through the first two postseason rounds, ESPN platforms (including ABC) averaged 5.2 million viewers, making it the most-watched first and second-round coverage ever on ESPN platforms and a 14% increase over last year’s coverage. 

The driving force behind this year’s five-year playoff viewership high came from earlier rounds rather than the NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat on ABC, which averaged 11.6 million viewers across five games. It was the third-lowest average audience for an NBA Finals since 2007, according to Nielsen data cited by Sports Media Watch, only beating out the 2020 and 2021 pandemic Finals that were played off-schedule.

This year’s Nuggets-Heat Finals on ABC was down six percent from last year’s Golden State Warriors-Boston Celtics, which averaged 12.4 million viewers across six games.

The NBA’s current media rights deals with ESPN (Disney) and TNT (Warner Bros. Discovery) will run for two more seasons until the end of the 2024-25 season. The league is expected to seek a combined $50 billion to $75 billion in its next wave of media rights contracts, drawing interest from NBC and Amazon.  

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