TV Ratings: NBA conference finals take a plunge, including in West

Sam Amico

At a time of year when television ratings tend to increase, the NBA went in the opposite direction during the conference finals.

The biggest loser was the Western Conference Finals on TNT, as the Los Angeles Lakers-Denver Nuggets series was supposed to start an uptick, given that the series featured LA star LeBron James. But one game dropped a staggering 41 percent in viewership from a comparable matchup last season between the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers, as relayed by Carlos Garcia of Game7.

Meanwhile, an Eastern Conference Finals game between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics on ESPN dropped 15 percent when compared to last season (Toronto Raptors-Milwaukee Bucks), and a whopping 44 percent from two years ago (Cleveland Cavaliers-Boston Celtics).

Overall, the six conference finals games broadcast by TNT and ESPN combined to average a meager rating of 2.4, per Show Buzz Daily.

When compared to every sport but the NFL this fall, that's actually not horrible. The conference finals even occasionally outdrew college football. But when compared to NBA seasons past, it's been quite a nosedive. 

For instance, last year's conference finals series averaged a rating of 3.9, with no West finals game falling below 4.2.

And unlike this season, neither 2019 series had LeBron.

Along with all that, the most-watched conference finals game last season (Warriors-Blazers, Game 2) averaged 7.8 million viewers. The most-watched this year (Lakers-Nuggets, Game 3) averaged 4.8 million -- or three million less than 2019.

"Some believe this all boils down to consumption habits. People are streaming more --both legally and illegally -- and watching TV less," Garcia wrote. "Others think this is a political issue. Both the NBA and NFL have been very vocal as it pertains to social justice issues over the past few months. Critics suggest that this is a turn off to potential viewers."

Granted, these are strange times, especially for the NBA, with playoff games often going head-to-head against the beast that is the NFL for the first time in league history.

But the decline has been a season-long trend, as pre-hiatus ratings on ABC, ESPN and TNT had nosedived a combined 12 percent since last season. 

Again, that was before the league was forced to suspend the season and everything was business as usual.

Things only got worse during the restart on the Disney campus, especially for the playoffs, with the first-round ratings plummeting 27 percent from 2019, and 40 percent from 2018.

This type of news may or may not impact the league in terms of sponsorships and when it's time to renegotiate television contracts. But what it does show is that interest appears to be waning at a time when fans can't even attend games.

Less interest results in less revenue, and no business can afford that, not even the big business of pro basketball.

ABC tips off its coverage of the Finals between the Lakers and Heat on Wednesday (9 p.m., EST). View the full schedule and how to watch here.

Comments (30)
No. 1-17
So over it
So over it

What do you know, good people don't like woke sports and being told they're racist constantly

Surfcity714
Surfcity714

I will never watch this crap again Honoring a drug dealer for resisting arrest! Honoring a woman who was using the city emergency system to help sale DRUGS! Honoring a man who was trying to kidnap a child and raped a woman! I am sick to my stomach over the lies that are thrown at me because of someone's skin color DISGUSTING

NBA_Stinks
NBA_Stinks

Nobody wants to watch leBron.

2Ezzzzzzz
2Ezzzzzzz

They're still playing hoops? Who would have thunk it!

popfneye
popfneye

But lying and 200,000 dead does not outrage you racists?

12 Replies

Sal Monella
Sal Monella

Not even a little bit. I'm outraged by nefarious organizations utilizing minorities to advance their agenda. Being a pawn is no way to go through life, popfneye. You should be outraged by that because that set you back 60 years.

Marty10
Marty10

Agee. Not in the least. Just another bad flu season. Hide the elderly and those with pre-existing. The rest of should go on with our lives. Phuque LeBron. He’s the racist!

bobbymalibu
bobbymalibu

What does "lying" and the China virus have to do with NBA viewership? Maybe your comment is why people are turned off by the politics of the NBA and BLM.....decent and honest hard working Americans don't like to be called racist just like Black folks don't like to be called the N....... word.

Ralph234
Ralph234

BLM does nothing to actually help black people. Standing in the street and keeping grandma from going to bingo does nothing to help black lives.

Ralph234
Ralph234

BLM does nothing to help black lives. Yelling BLM, burning stores and blocking streets has nothing to do with helping black people or reforming the police or the NBA

ILLNoise
ILLNoise

Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that's one person every 50 minutes.

FrodoLives
FrodoLives

The virus came from China, the NBA is in bed with China, wake up!

ltahoe7195
ltahoe7195

FrodoLives, you are right on buddy !! I couldn't agree more. . NBA dopes support China (COVID 19 origin & anti-human rights) and lash out and don't support law enforcement. Meanwhile, the dopey owners let this BS continue and grow. I'll NEVER watch again..this from a long time Golden State Warrior fan.

jAMES mULLINS
jAMES mULLINS

Stupid troll

jAMES mULLINS
jAMES mULLINS

Well said!

LemonGator
LemonGator

Your a looser Dude. Vote Trump 2020 to redeem yourself

lukenuc
lukenuc

LeBron should retire!

PScript
PScript

NBA kills muslims in china, and takes hush money for it. nuff said

ounceoflogic
ounceoflogic

This is GOOD NEWS!

Bladeslinger2
Bladeslinger2

We watch sports to forget about the day to day BS. Now, professional sports ARE the BS. Even NOOSECAR! I am done with them. I do watch college football and Premiere League Soccer, but that's about it. Millionaires lecturing me on how I'm supposed to run MY life? I'm giving that a hard NO!

neverwatchingnba
neverwatchingnba

Never watching the NBA again... Well, I will check back in a decade when Lebron is a complete afterthought.

CallmLikeIseeEm1
CallmLikeIseeEm1

I wouldn’t piss on LeBron if he were on fire.

Squirrel8635
Squirrel8635

Wow, with so many people home, and ratings are down?! The NBA should wake up quick!

barkley34
barkley34

Lebron's racism has turned EVERYONE off

jml4343
jml4343

I stopped watching months ago. Entitled millionaires are the last people that should lecture us on how to live. I can barely watch my niners and that's about it. I'm done with sports for awhile.

Slumdog40
Slumdog40

Use to Watch NBA done with them .....Only watching NFL for Fantasy league but alot of fantasy players quitt playing this year because of Political views

Graphxbiz
Graphxbiz

Limousine liberals talking about being oppressed while honoring the the memory of kidnappers, rapists, drug dealers. This is the world we live in.

jAMES mULLINS
jAMES mULLINS

Not one mention of the real reason(BLM crap), they just keep their heads in the sand while the ship goes down.

Totytie
Totytie

No one likes being told you as a fan are a racist!!!
Big pay cut coming
Even China dumping on y’all


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