Game 1: 9.9 – highest Game 1 rating since 2002!
Game 2: 10.4 – highest Game 2 rating since 2004!
Game 3: 8.8
Game 4: 10.5 – highest Game 4 rating since 2004!
Game 5: 10.9 – highest Game 5 rating since 2005!
Wait. If the ratings for four of the first five games were so impressive, why was the series average – a 10.1 – lower than last year’s Dallas/Miami series (10.2) and 2010’s LA/Boston series (10.6)?
[Ed. My guess of a 12.9 average was way, way off.]
Those series went six and seven games, respectively, and as we have seen in baseball, a close series is crucial to ratings. Game six of Dallas/Miami last year? A monster 13.3. Game seven of Lakers/Celtics in 2010? A 15.6, or the highest rating for an NBA Finals game since Jordan was on the court.
Which is why it was so awful that the Thunder got jobbed on that late call against Durant in Game 2, that Kevin Durant got in questionable foul trouble in Game 3, and that the Heat were able to close out Game 4 despite the Russell Westbrook’s incredible performance. If the series had gone six games, a 13 or 14 rating – easily within reach given the rest of the series and the ESPN hype machine – would have propelled this series much higher.
But alas, none of that happened, so we’re bound to hear more “size matters” comments regarding Oklahoma City. Dallas is the 5th largest TV market, LA is 2nd, Boston is 7th. Oklahoma City? Forty-fifth. If the 16th and 45th largest TV markets were able to generate such an uptick in ratings, can you imagine if Durant were in New York and LeBron in LA? (Couldn’t resist, sorry.)
Lastly, the US Open put a serious dent in Game 3 ratings. Tiger’s impressive play Thursday-Saturday spurred thoughts of a possible victory Sunday – NBC tried most of the day to keep the dream alive – but even though he fell apart, nobody ran away with the field, and several golfers staying in the mix kept viewers glued to the TV.
Previously: NBA Finals: How Good Will TV Ratings Be?