TV ratings: NFL opener trounces Lakers-Rockets, but not all news is bad

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As expected, Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets fared poorly in its head-to-matchup with the NFL season-opener, losing the viewership battle 19.3 million to 2.5 million.

But that's only part of the story.

That Lakers-Rockets game also turned out to be the highest-rated show to be broadcast against an NFL opener in a decade, per Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch.

Both the Lakers-Rockets game and NFL opener between the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans were broadcast Thursday night. The NBA game was also on TNT and the NFL on NBC -- and cable shows generally fare worse than those on network television.

While the NBA game started at 7 p.m. EST, and the NFL game began at 8:30, NBC's football coverage kicked off 90 minutes earlier. So the programming coincided for the duration of the evening.

"Game 4 was the least-watched Laker game of the playoffs, not just owing to the competition but also to a special 7 PM ET start time — or 4 PM in Los Angeles," Lewis wrote. "Every other Laker game this postseason averaged at least 2.9 million and the three previous games of the Rockets series each topped four million."

Overall, the NBA's ratings have seen a slight increase as the playoffs have progressed. Ideally, they aren't where the league and broadcast partners ESPN, ABC and TNT had hoped, but are about where everyone expected, given NBA playoff games have before taken place in August and September.

Ratings for the first round of the playoffs dropped 27 percent from last season, and 40 percent from two years ago. The first round was an extension of the declining ratings prior to the NBA hiatus in March.

According to a report from Sports Business Daily in February, national television viewership for regular-season games were down 12 percent compared to 2018-19. 

That said, with the exception of cable news networks such as FOX News and CNN, television ratings for all programming has been down across the boards when compared to a year ago, per multiple reports.

The Lakers ended up eliminating the Rockets in five games to advance to the West finals.