2020-21 NBA opening week delivers highest viewership since 2012

Cody Taylor
·2 min read

The opening week of the 2020-21 NBA season, which ran Dec. 22-25, was the most-watched opening week since 2012, with combined viewership up 67% compared to last season, the league announced on Wednesday.

The first night of the season — which featured matchups between the Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers — averaged 2.9 million viewers, the most-watched opening night since 2017.

Meanwhile, the NBA also saw a 10% increase in viewership across the five Christmas Day games, which drew in an average audience of 2.83 million. The matchup between the Dallas Mavericks and Lakers averaged 7.01 million viewers, the best of the day.

The strong start to the season comes after the league suffered a significant drop in ratings during the NBA Finals. President Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz were among those who incorrectly claimed the ratings saw a drastic decline because fans were “tired” of watching players kneel during the national anthem and otherwise speak out against social injustice.

However, TV ratings declined across several other major sports at the same time the NBA Finals were being played in October, including the NFL (-14%), college football (-26%), MLB (-26%) and NHL playoffs (-25%). Sports consumption was down due to various factors, including the increased attention on cable news ahead of the election and the increased competition across all leagues.

The summer months often present challenges for networks as TV consumption is down compared to the rest of the year. Leagues across the country faced numerous challenges during an unprecedented year but the NBA appears to be on track to return to some normalcy this season.

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