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TV ratings: How many people watched the NBA Finals 2023?

Though viewership numbers for the 2023 NBA Finals weren’t as impressive as previous editions, they were when it came to the NBA Playoffs themselves.

Though viewership numbers for the 2023 NBA Finals weren’t as impressive as previous editions, they were when it came to the NBA Playoffs themselves.
Kyle TeradaUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

As much as we can debate about varying reasons why numbers were down for this year’s NBA Finals, the reality is we had a relatively short series that featured two teams that come from what are effectively secondary markets.

Viewership for the NBA Finals

Off the bat, we can say that viewership for the 2023 NBA Finals was down from last year - 6% to be precise - which brings the obvious question as to why? To be clear, reports indicate that ABC averaged 11.65 million viewers over the course of the five-game series, which is approximately 757,000 viewers less than the amount that watched last year’s battle between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics. Indeed, that series averaged around 12.4 million viewers So, why didn’t as many fans tune in to watch Nikola Jokic lead the Denver Nuggets to their first-ever NBA title in the franchise’s 56-year history? After all, the Serbian put on a performance for the ages with an average of 30.2 points per game, to go with 14 rebounds and 7.2 assists. Fittingly, he was named MVP of the Finals after Monday night’s finale, which to be fair was the most-watched game of the entire 2022-23 campaign with 13.08 million viewers.

For perspective, that’s the largest viewership for a Game 5 since pre-pandemic times. Yet, it’s got to be said that the 18.22 million who watched the Warriors vs the Raptors in 2019 significantly eclipses that number. Nonetheless, at its peak Game 5 garnered 17.83 million viewers, with casual fans understandably joining in toward the game’s end in an effort to see the curtain come down on what was a historic season for Jokic and Co. So, where does it rank in terms of other NBA Finals? The Nuggets vs Heat series is the fifth least-watched Finals of the modern Nielsen era i.e., the period that we’ve witnessed since the introduction of the portable people meter in 1987. What that means, is that it only surpassed the Spurs sweep of the Cavs in 2007 which saw 9.29 million viewers.

Why were the NBA Finals numbers down?

The straight answer would be the length of the series. It’s highly likely that had it stretched to six or even seven games, we would have seen a notable increase in viewership and of course revenue for ABC but in the end, the Nuggets put paid to the Heat and that was that. Conversely, it should be acknowledged that while numbers were down, overall TV usage across the last year decreased by 11% which is to say the numbers aren’t as big a concern as one might think.

There’s also the reality that the two teams competing for the title aren’t exactly the most famous franchises of the league. With all due respect to the Nuggets and the Heat, they don’t have the same fan bases as teams such as the Lakers or Warriors. Consider for a moment that Denver is home to 1.79 million TV households, and Miami is even smaller with its 1.72 million. That’s to say that between the two of them, they don’t even match the 5.84 million that reside in Los Angeles.

But the NBA Playoffs did better?

Believe it or not, they did. In total, the postseason saw 5.46 million viewers per game across ESPN, ABC, and TNT, which is a 7% increase from last year’s 5.12 million. Indeed, when the Conference Finals came to an end, there was already an overall increase of 11%. Ultimately, despite the drop in the NBA Finals, this was in fact a successful year for the league. Not only was a new attendance record set with 22 million fans attending games, but arena capacity also jumped to 97%. Team sponsorship also saw a new high with a 10.5% increase to the tune of $1.4 billion. In the end, it looks like things turned out all right.


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