The NBA knew the NFL was coming to steal its Christmas viewers. The ratings show that its strategy is working.
Not only did the NFL see viewership increases for all three of its broadcast windows in the league’s second year of offering a Christmas Day tripleheader, but those numbers seemingly came at the expense of the NBA’s traditional slate of games. Among the NFL’s wins: That day’s Las Vegas Raiders-Kansas City Chiefs game on CBS scored 29.2 million viewers, making it the most-watched Christmas Day game in 34 years.
The NBA, meanwhile, saw viewership decline in each of its five games compared to the same broadcast windows in 2022. The steepest drop came from the Philadelphia 76ers-Miami Heat matchup, which drew 1.3 million viewers on ESPN and ESPN2, down 73% from last year’s 8 p.m. ET matchup between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors. The 2022 game was simulcast on ABC, but this year the NFL’s nightcap (Baltimore Ravens-San Francisco 49ers) got the main network slot.
Three of the NBA’s other four games were down significantly—42%, 39%, and 18%—from comparable broadcasts on Christmas Day in 2022, according to Sports Media Watch. The Denver Nuggets’ 120-114 victory over Golden State at 2:30 p.m. ET garnered 4.1 million viewers, per the New York Post, which would be down 5% from Dallas Mavericks-Los Angeles Lakers in that time slot in 2022.
Next year could bring some reprieve for the NBA as Christmas falls on a Wednesday, a day the NFL typically doesn’t play. But in the long term, it’s clear that the NBA will continue facing competition most years, now that the NFL has decided to embrace the holiday.