'The Last Dance' smashes ESPN ratings record for original programming

Yahoo Sports

“The Last Dance” was a smash hit on social media Sunday.

It was also the ratings boon ESPN so desperately sought with numbers smashing previous network viewership for a documentary.

A sports-starved nation gorged on the first two episodes of the 10-part Michael Jordan documentary Sunday night, tuning in in record numbers, according to the network.

ESPN announced that 6.3 million viewers tuned into the first episode that aired from 9-10 p.m. ET with most of them sticking around an hour later for the second episode that drew 5.8 million viewers.

According to ESPN, the ratings beat the network’s previous record for original programming previously held by 2012’s “30 for 30” Bo Jackson feature “You Don’t Know Bo,” which drew 3.6 million viewers.

Best number since LSU beat Clemson

The network also noted that the documentary drew the highest viewership of anything broadcast on the network since LSU’s victory over Clemson in the College Football National Championship on Jan. 13.

That means the documentary drew more viewers than several actual live NBA games.

Sports-starved fans were happy to tune into to Michael Jordan on Sunday. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Sports-starved fans were happy to tune into to Michael Jordan on Sunday. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Chicago, North Carolina tune in

Not surprisingly, four of the top five markets that tuned in on Sunday were in Chicago and North Carolina. Chicago led the way with a 12.1 rating, while Raleigh-Durham (which includes UNC home Chapel Hill) drew a 6.5 rating and Charlotte and Greensboro each drew a 4.7 rating. Norfolk, Virginia drew a 4.9 rating to crack the top five.

The network aired separate versions of the documentary on ESPN and ESPN2 — one with mature language and one without. ESPN didn’t provide the breakdown on the separate broadcasts.

With four more Sundays of “The Last Dance” programming scheduled, the numbers are good news for a network built around live sports broadcasts.

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