With Only One U.S. Team, NBA Finals Draws Lowest Viewership Since 2009

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While the concluding two games of ABC’s coverage of the NBA Finals drew prime-time television’s largest official live-plus-same-day audiences since the NCAA men’s basketball championship game in April, it couldn’t keep the series from being the least-watched since 2009.

The Toronto Raptors’ six-game victory over the Golden State Warriors averaged 15.129 million viewers, the least since the Los Angeles Lakers five-game victory over the Orlando Magic in 2009 averaged 14.35 million, according to figures released by Nielsen Tuesday.

Viewership was higher than Fox’s coverage of the 2018 World Series, when the Boston Red Sox five-game victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers averaged 14.354 million viewers, the least for a World Series since 2014. The World Series ran opposite more first-run programming than the NBA Finals.

Factors for the drop in viewership included the presence of a Canadian team in the finals for the first time, meaning there was not a second local U.S. market with huge viewership, boosting the national figure. This was the first time since 2010 the finals did not include LeBron James.

Viewership for nearly all forms of programming have dropped in recent years because of increased competition from streaming programs, including viewers watching streamed versions of programs simultaneously airing on traditional television.

The Raptors series-clinching 114-110 victory last Thursday averaged 18.763 million viewers, the largest official audience for a prime-time program since April 8 when CBS’ coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball championship game averaged 19.723 million.

The combined linear and streaming viewership for the finale of HBO’s fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” May 19 was 19.3 million.

Golden State’s 106-105 victory in Game 5 June 10 was the only other prime-time program between June 10 and Sunday to average more than 10 million viewers, averaging 18.601 million viewers.

NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” continued its streak of being the most-watched entertainment program each week an original episode has aired which dates back at least to the summer of 2017, finishing third for the week, averaging 9.456 million viewers.

The ABC game show “Card Sharks” fared best among the week’s three premieres, averaging 4.399 million viewers to finish second in its 9-10 p.m. Wednesday time slot behind NBC’s coverage of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final and 18th for the week.

The premiere of another ABC game show “Press Your Luck” was third in its 10-11 p.m. time slot June 4 and 46th the for the week, averaging 3.123 million.

The first episode in its regular 8-9 p.m. Wednesday time slot was second in the time slot behind Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final and 11th for week, averaging 4.876 million. The audience was ABC’s largest for the week, outside of its NBA Finals coverage, including two pregame shows.

The premiere of the Fox alternative series “First Responders Live” was sixth in its Wednesday 9-10 p.m. time slot and 78th for the week, averaging 2.067 million viewers.

ABC was the most-watched network for the third consecutive week, averaging 6.06 million viewers. This is the first time ABC has finished first for three consecutive weeks since it aired the 2017 NBA Finals.

NBC was second, averaging 4.06 million viewers. It received a boost from its coverage of the St. Louis Blues 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of hockey’s Stanley Cup Final June 12, which drew the largest audience for an NHL game in the U.S. since 1973, averaging 8.761 million viewers, fourth for the week.

Coverage of men’s golf’s U.S. Open enabled Fox to end its 21-week streak of fourth-place finishes, averaging 3.92 million viewers for its 15 hours, 39 minutes of prime-time programming to finish third for the week.

The two-hour, 31-minute runover of Sunday afternoon’s final-round coverage into prime-time averaged 8.89 million viewers. The runover is not considered a separate program, eligible for the weekly rankings, but is included in the weekly average. If it had been eligible, it would have been fourth for the week.

Fox’s most-watched program outside of its golf coverage was “MasterChef,” 53rd among the week’s broadcast and cable programs, averaging 2.813 million viewers.

CBS was fourth, averaging 3.79 million viewers, despite having four of the week’s top 10 programs, topped by “60 Minutes,” fifth for the week averaging 6.169 million viewers.

ABC, NBC and CBS each broadcast 22 hours of prime-time programming for ratings purposes.

Fox News Channel was the most-watched cable network for the third consecutive week, averaging 2.19 million viewers.

The order of finish among the three top cable networks was identical for the third consecutive week. MSNBC was second, averaging 1.471 million viewers. HGTV was third, averaging 1.296 million.

Fox News Channel had each of the week’s seven most-watched prime-time cable programs, topped by three episodes of the political talk show “Hannity.” The June 10 “Hannity” episode was the week’s most-watched prime-time cable program, averaging 3.218 million viewers, 45th overall.

The most-watched Spanish-language prime-time program was the June 11 episode of the Telemundo telenovela “La Reina del Sur,” which averaged 1.936 million viewers to finish 88th among the week’s broadcast and cable programs.

Telemundo averaged 1.18 million viewers to be the most-watched Spanish-language network for the second consecutive week. Univision averaged 1.1 million viewers to finish second for the second consecutive week after three consecutive first-place finishes.

UniMas was third, averaging 430,000, followed by Estrella TV, which averaged 210,000 viewers, and Azteca America, which averaged 50,000.

ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for the 29th consecutive week and 80th time in the past 81 weeks, averaging 7.6 million viewers.

The “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was second, averaging 6.798 million viewers. The “CBS Evening News” averaged 5.16 million viewers. It has finished third each week since the week of Sept. 25-29, 2006.

The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were ABC’s coverage of Games 6 and 5 of the NBA Finals; NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and its coverage of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final; CBS’ “60 Minutes”; ABC’s 28-minute “NBA Countdown” pregame show before Game 5; CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,”; ABC’s 31-minute “NBA Countdown” pregame show before Game 6; and CBS’ “NCIS” and “Young Sheldon.”

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