The NBA’s decision to hold a play-in tournament for the second consecutive season proved to be a hit with television viewers, as ESPN’s telecast of the Lakers’ 103-100 victory over the Golden State Warriors drew the league’s second-largest audience of the season, according to live-plus-same-day figures released Tuesday by Nielsen.
Last Wednesday’s game averaged 5.619 million viewers, the largest audience for an ESPN NBA telecast since the 2019 Western Conference finals, and the highest viewership among prime-time cable programs between May 17 and Sunday, for 12th overall.
The only NBA game this season to draw more viewers was ABC’s Christmas Day telecast of the Lakers’ 138-115 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, which averaged 5.674 million viewers.
Golden State’s 117-112 overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in a play-in game was second among cable programs and 32nd overall, averaging 3.633 million viewers, the most for a prime-time program last Friday.
As expected, viewership increased substantially for the two cable networks carrying NBA play-in and playoff games. TNT was third among cable networks for the week, two spots higher than the previous week, averaging 1.391 million viewers — 53.7% more than its 905,000 average the previous week.
ESPN was fourth, four spots higher than the previous week, averaging 1.375 million viewers — 88.4% more than its 730,000 average the previous week.
Fox News Channel was the most-watched cable network in prime time for the eighth consecutive week and 16th time in 17 weeks, averaging 2.043 million viewers. Its most-watched program was the Monday edition of the political talk show “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” third among cable programs and 38th overall, averaging 3.179 million viewers.
MSNBC was second for the third consecutive week, averaging 1.434 million viewers.
The top 20 cable programs consisted of nine Fox News Channel programs — five broadcasts of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and four of “Hannity”; five broadcasts of the MSNBC news and opinion program “The Rachel Maddow Show,”; and six NBA games, three each on ESPN and TNT.
“NCIS” was the most-watched prime-time program for the fourth consecutive week and eighth time in the 35-week-old 2020-21 television season. “NCIS” is the only scripted series to win a week this season.
Three other CBS programs followed — “60 Minutes” (8.263 million), “FBI” (7.593 million) and “The Equalizer” (7.126 million).
NBC’s “Chicago Fire” was the most-watched non-CBS program for the third consecutive week, averaging 6.843 million viewers, putting it fifth for the week.
“American Idol” was ABC’s most-watched program for the eighth consecutive week it has aired, with its season finale averaging 6.5 million viewers, seventh for the week.
Fox’s most-watched program was the procedural drama “9-1-1,” which averaged 5.927 million viewers, 10th for the week. A “9-1-1” episode has been Fox’s most-watched program all 13 weeks it has aired this season.
The crime drama “Walker” was The CW’s most-watched program, averaging 1.002 million viewers, 114th among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.
CBS finished first in the network race for the fourth consecutive week and 19th time in the season, averaging 4.57 million viewers. CBS’ average included 11.23 million viewers for the 30-minute runover of its coverage of Sunday’s final round of the PGA Championship, which is not considered a separate program.
The order behind CBS was the same as the previous two weeks, with NBC finishing second, averaging 3.7 million, and ABC third, averaging 3.54 million.
CBS, NBC and ABC all aired 22 hours of prime-time programming.
Fox was fourth among the broadcast networks for the 17th consecutive week, averaging 2.55 million viewers for its 15 hours, 44 minutes of prime-time programming. The CW again was fifth among the five major English-language broadcast networks, averaging 510,000 viewers for its 12 hours of programming.
For the third time in four weeks, the most-watched Spanish-language prime-time program an episode of the Univision telenovela “Te acuerdas de mí,” with the Thursday episode averaging 1.655 million viewers, 69th among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.
Univision was the most-watched Spanish-language network for the 77th consecutive week and 79th time in 80 weeks, averaging 1.32 million viewers. Telemundo was second, averaging 1 million viewers, followed by UniMas (530,000), Estrella TV (140,000) and Azteca America (40,000).
ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for the 77th consecutive week, the 128th time in 129 weeks and the 180th time in 182 weeks, averaging 7.559 million viewers.
“NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was second, averaging 6.203 million viewers, followed by the “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell,” which averaged 4.69 million viewers.
The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were CBS’ “NCIS,” “60 Minutes,” “FBI” and “The Equalizer”; NBC’s “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago Med”; ABC’s “American Idol”; NBC’s “The Voice”; CBS’ “NCIS: Los Angeles”, and Fox’s “9-1-1.”