One of the most iconic franchises with one of the league’s all-time great players may be playing in the NBA Finals, but it still wasn’t enough for the series opener to avoid the recent trend of rough sports television ratings.
Wednesday’s Game 1 between the Lakers and Heat averaged a 4.1 rating and 7.41 million viewers, making it the least-watched NBA Finals game since at least 1988, according to Sports Media Watch.
The previous lows of 5.2 and 8.06 million came in 2003 for Game 2 between the Nets and Spurs.
The Lakers’ 116-98 blowout of the Heat dropped 45 percent in viewership and 48 percent in ratings from Game 1 of last year’s NBA Finals between the Warriors and Raptors, which were held in May and June during the traditional league schedule. This year’s finals are being played four months late in the Orlando bubble due to the coronavirus pandemic, pitting Game 1 against MLB playoff games on Wednesday night. It was still the most-watched show Wednesday night and drew the best non-NFL viewership on TV since the Oscars in February, per Sports Media Watch.
Sports television ratings have generally been down across the board since leagues returned from their respective pandemic pauses, muddling the schedule with more games and big events being played in the same season. According to Sports Media Watch, Stanley Cup viewership was down 61 percent, the Kentucky Derby dropped 43 percent, the U.S. Open sank 56 percent and the Indy 500 fell 32 percent.
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