ESPN struck gold with the Summer League this year, and got eyeballs during a part of the calendar where sports viewership is traditionally sparse. This is attributable to a number of factors — an exciting rookie class, a lot of interest in the sport from a frenetic month of free agency and trades and general gossip — but far and away the biggest differentiator was Lonzo Ball and the Lakers. Some stats:
- The top five highest viewed games and six of the top seven were Lakers games. The two games Lonzo Ball played on main ESPN outdrew the Final game, which he missed (1.106 million and 879,000 viewers vs. 836,000).
- Per Sports TV Ratings, the aforementioned Final game that Lonzo missed outdrew last year’s Final by over 100% — 836,000 vs. 366,000. Per the New York Times, ESPN ratings were up 99% year over year during the first weekend of summer league.
- The lone non-Lakers game in the top seven, 76ers-Warriors, had the advantage of the Lakers game with over a million viewers as its lead-in.
- The most-watched summer league game on ESPN2 was Lakers-Cavs, with 782,000 viewers. The most-watched game on ESPN2 that didn’t involve the Lakers was Kings-Mavs with 484,000 viewers.
- The most-watched summer league game on ESPNU was Lakers-Nets with 351,000 viewers. The next highest viewed game on ESPNU had 126,000 viewers and there weren’t any others that had more than 100k.
- On NBA TV, the highest viewed game was Celtics-76ers, which was the debut of Markelle Fultz and Jayson Tatum, with 212,000 viewers. The 2nd highest was the Lakers-Kings game that Lonzo missed, with 193k.
Here is the full viewership chart of the top 35 games that aired on the ESPN family of networks: