Television ratings for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals continued a trend downward for the NBA this season, with the Miami Heat's win over the Boston Celtics averaging just 3.48 million viewers.
As noted by Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch, that was a 21 percent drop from last season's East finals Game 2 between the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks -- and the least-watched East finals Game 2 since 2003.
This year's Game 2 was televised by ESPN, which is carrying the entire East finals, followed by the actual Finals, which will be broadcast entirely on ABC. Disney owns both ABC and ESPN.
The Heat and Celtics did have to go up against Thursday Night Football, but that was also broadcast on cable (NFL Network) and involved two teams that failed to make the playoffs last season in the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.
Wisely, Game 4 of the Heat-Celtics series was moved from Monday to Tuesday night in order to avoid a conflict with ESPN's broadcast of Monday Night Football.
In fairness to the NBA, this is the first time in history the conference finals have had to go head-to-head with the NFL, which tends to wallop anything it faces, regardless of the competition.
Still, as Ryan Glasspiegel of Outkick wrote, the declining viewership generally is the result of declining interest in the product -- regardless of whether fans are streaming games, legally or otherwise.
"This continues a troubling trend for NBA playoff viewership, and the sports-starved audience that the league believed would be there when they returned from the pandemic has not materialized," Glasspiegel opined.
As reported a few weeks back, ratings for the first round of the playoffs dropped 27 percent since last season and an astonishing 40 percent from two years ago.
That said, while the league is disappointed in the TV turnout, it doesn't appear to be overly concerned. These are, after all, rare times.
What the NBA will find troubling, though, is if the ratings remain consistently on the lower end when next season resumes. In that scenario, it would be considered more than just a blip.
It would be a trend, and likely weaken the league's bargaining position when it comes the all-important television contracts and sponsorships.