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Volume 27 No. 32
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NBA Playoff Viewership Decline In Line With Other Properties

The NBA Playoffs, shifted to the fall due to COVID-19, was predictably down sharply from its normal spring spot on the calendar, including a record-low figure for the NBA Finals. Some numbers from the Orlando bubble:

  • The complete NBA postseason across ABC, TNT, ESPN and NBA TV averaged 3.038 million viewers for 83 games. Last year, in the spring, 82 games across those networks averaged 4.825 million viewers. That’s a 37% drop.

  • The six-game Lakers-Heat series averaged 7.5 million viewers, marking the least-watched NBA Finals on record and down 49% from Raptors-Warriors last year (15 million viewers). This year also saw the four least-watched NBA Finals games on record (Games 1-4).

  • The aggregate primetime audience for CNN, Fox News and MSNBC on the first five nights of the 2020 Finals was +78% compared to the first five nights of the Finals in '19.

  • While the NBA’s linear TV audience for the '20 playoffs was down sharply, the average digital audience for nationally televised games was up 34% compared to the '19 postseason. The league also set a record for total video views.

The declines for the NBA postseason are in line with the drops for other big sports properties, including the MLB Divisional Series (-40%), NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs (-38%), U.S. Open tennis (-45%), Kentucky Derby (-43%), college football (-30%) and U.S. Open golf (-42%).