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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Wembanyama’s Debut Lands ESPN Major Opening-Night Audience

  • Nearly 3M viewers watched Phenom’s first regular season game.
  • Viewership for ESPN’s Wednesday doubleheader jumps by 80%.
Wembanyama Spurs
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Wemby-mania boosted ESPN to its most-watched opening night game in 11 years. 

An average of 2.99 million viewers watched No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama make his debut with the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks, according to ESPN. 

Wembanyama scored 15 points in 17 minutes of action in a 126-119 loss to Dallas. The Mavs-Spurs game peaked at 3.9 viewers, and the average was the second-most for an NBA opening night in ESPN history. 

The game was the most-viewed opener on either ESPN or TNT through the first two nights of the season. 

Viewership in France via NBA League Pass was up more 220% compared to last season’s regular season average, according to the NBA. Videos of Wembanyama posted to the NBA’s social media accounts had 214 million views, the most of any player since the start of the preseason.

ESPN’s first game Wednesday night (Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks) averaged 2.5 million viewers. ESPN averaged 2.75 million viewers between the two games, an 80% jump over the comparable two games a year ago. 

According to Sports MediaWatch, TNT’s Tuesday openers averaged 2.8 million viewers for the Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Denver Nuggets and 2.71 million for the Phoenix Suns vs. Golden State Warriors. 

Disney’s ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery’s Turner Sports are in the exclusive negotiating period to renew their respective packages with the NBA, which are set to expire after next season. 

That allows Disney and WBD to see if they can develop a proposal the NBA is willing to bite on before the negotiations are opened up to others in the second half of 2024. The NBA reportedly seeks $50 to $75 billion over the life of a new nine-year deal — at least double what the league gets under its current deals. 

NBC, Amazon, Apple, and  Google are all interested in getting a slice of the next NBA U.S. rights package. 

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