ABC, ESPN Banking on Star Power To Drive NBA Finals Ratings

 Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks dribbles the ball during the game against the Boston Celtics on March 1, 2024.

ESPN tips off its NBA Finals coverage tonight (June 6) on ABC with hopes that the Boston Celtics-Dallas Mavericks title matchup will attract both hardcore and casual hoops fans.

The league enters the finals after overall NBA playoffs ratings dropped 11% to 4.10 million viewers across ABC, ESPN TNT and NBA TV compared to last year, according to Nielsen numbers supplied by SportsMedia Watch. 

Despite declining NBA playoff ratings, ESPN VP of acquisitions Matt Kenny believes that the Celtics-Mavericks matchup is a marquee battle between two teams with several superstars: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown of the Celtics and Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving of the Mavericks.

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“We couldn’t be happier with the storylines that have presented themselves for the finals,” Kenny said. “Obviously, Boston has been tremendous for several years now, and then you had an incredible playoff run by the Dallas Mavericks. We think the Celtics and Mavericks are going to be a lot of fun for fans.”

ABC will look to top the 11.64 million viewers generated by last year’s NBA Finals, in which the Denver Nuggets beat the Miami Heat in five games. Kenny says with both teams taking different paths to get to the NBA Finals — the Celtics were prohibitive favorites to win the Eastern Conference. while the Mavericks were mostly underdogs in the West — the series offers a contrasting scenario for viewers.

“We always like to say that fans are very smart, and opportunities like this where you have genuine heat and genuine star power on a national stage should generate genuine interest in the series,” Kenny said.

Headlining a new Finals announcing team for ABC is veteran play-by-play announcer Mike Breen along with two new analysts, J.J. Redick and Doris Burke, the first woman to announce an NBA Finals on television. Burke, who has announced the NBA Finals on ESPN Radio since 2020, said the appeal of young players like the Celtics’ Tatum and the Mavs’ Doncic should draw fans to the series.

“I don’t know what the ratings are going to say,” Burke said earlier this week during an NBA Finals conference call. “I can only tell you that I could not be more excited that two young stars are on the stage with an opportunity to grow viewership.”