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Volume 26 No. 43
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NBA Down 14% In Playoff Viewership Compared To Last Year

Viewership was hurt in part by the Toronto market not being Nielsen-rated

The NBA heads into Game 1 of the Finals tonight with a big playoff viewership deficit compared to ’18. The league is averaging 3.95 million viewers across ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV after the conference finals (76 games), down 14% from the same point last season. Heading into the conference finals, the league was down only 4%, but the combination of the Warriors' sweep of the Trail Blazers, no figures from the Toronto market for the Raptors-Bucks series and both conference finals going seven games in '18 hurt the numbers this year. Despite the sharp drop from last year, the NBA Playoffs are up 1% compared to '17 at the same point. To keep the increase going compared to two years ago, the NBA may need Warriors-Raptors to go six or seven games to match the numbers seen by the five-game Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals. The conference finals this year (10 games) across TNT, ABC and ESPN averaged 6.49 million viewers, off from nearly 9 million average viewers for the Warriors-Rockets and Cavaliers-Celtics series last year. However, both Warriors-Trail Blazers and Raptors-Bucks stayed slightly above the ’17 figures (+1%) (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

WALK THE DINOSAURS: AD AGE's Anthony Crupi reports ABC likely will need Warriors-Raptors to go the full seven games if it is to "deliver blockbuster ad impressions." The Raptors, largely because Nielsen does not count the Toronto market, "haven't been much of a draw during the first three rounds of the playoffs." The six-game Raptors-Bucks series averaged 5.76 million viewers on TNT, a 33% drop from Cavaliers-Celtics last year. The Raptors' entire 18-game playoff slate is averaging 4.11 million viewers, down 35% compared to the Cavaliers' run last year. Meanwhile, Warriors fatigue "isn't likely to have an impact on the Finals," as the team's games through the postseason to date "would suggest otherwise." The Warriors' 16 playoff games have averaged a league-high 6.05 million viewers (, 5/30).