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NBA Finals Opener Endures Worst Non-Pandemic Ratings Performance Since 2007

 NBA Finals Game 1 2024.
NBA Finals Game 1 2024.

The Boston Celtics' easy win over the Dallas Mavericks Thursday on ABC produced an average of just 10.99 million viewers, making it the worst audience scorer for a non-pandemic-year NBA Finals Game 1 since the mid-market San Antonio Spurs embarked on a lopsided sweep of a young LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2007.

The viewership was down 5% from last year's also-tepid Game 1 Finals, which featured Denver beating Miami. And it was the sixth worst rated Finals opener in the entire era of Nielsen audience measurement. Thursday night's game did outpace the 2020 "Bubble Finals" Game 1 and the 2021 opener, which was also impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For their part, the NBA and TV partner Disney/ESPN tried to put a nice spin on the ol' ratings ball, noting that ABC's 20.3 audience share was the largest for a Finals opener ever.

But given the size of the overall broadcast TV market these days, large audience shares certainly don't mean as much.

Boston jumped on Dallas from the start, leading by 17 after the first quarter, and by 21 at the half, so a lot of viewers undoubtedly tuned out, affecting the viewer average. The league and Dallas are certainly hoping for a more competitive contest in Game 2 on Sunday.

The Finals are unfurling, of course, as the NBA gets ready to make Disney/ESPN, Comcast/NBCUniversal and Amazon sign on the dotted lines of TV deals totally $76 billion over the next 11 years.