NEW YORK — ABC reaped the dollar rewards of an NBA Finals that stretched out to the full seven games, but the average rating among total viewers still fell 30% below that of last year’s five-game series.
Of course, last year’s Finals featured Detroit against the wildly popular but dysfunctional Los Angeles Lakers, battered by a headline-making rape accusation against Kobe Bryant and internal feuding between Bryant and then-Laker Shaquille O’Neal.
ABC said a better apples-to-apples comparison is the 2003 Finals, a six-game contest between San Antonio and New Jersey. In that comparison, the 2005 Finals (a victory by San Antonio over Detroit on June 23) harvested 26% more total viewers, as well as 24% more adults 18-49, the target aud for the National Basketball Assn.
Game 7 of this year’s Finals averaged 19 million total viewers, a 7.6 rating in adults 18-49 and a 7.2 in 18-34, allowing ABC to easily win the night in all three categories, beating second-place CBS by 3.5 million viewers.
The 2005 Finals started slowly, averaging only a 7.1 household rating for the first four games, which were all blowouts. The final three games were much closer, and the ratings built to Game 7, which was the second-strongest series closer since 2000, beaten only by last year’s Lakers-Pistons contest.
But, on the downside, the 2005 Finals averaged only an 8.2 household rating — just the second time the Finals came in at less than a 10 rating since 1981.
However, ABC said each of the seven Finals games gave it the No. 1-rated show of the night.