The ratings aren’t bouncing the NBA’s way this playoff season, as the Finals opened to historic lows Thursday night.
According to same-day Nielsen nationals, Game 1 of the San Antonio-Cleveland series on ABC averaged a 3.7 rating/12 share in adults 18-49 and 9.21 million viewers overall — down 23% from last year in the demo for Miami-Dallas (4.8/15) and off a whopping 47% from 2004 when the popular Los Angeles Lakers were a participant (7.0/19).
These are believed to be the lowest scores on record for a primetime Game 1 of pro basketball’s championship round. The previous valley in total viewers came in 2003, when 9.6 million watched the New Jersey-San Antonio opener.
Thursday’s contest, which aired from 9:03 to 11:42 p.m. ET, finished second in adults 18-49 during the 9 p.m. hour to Fox’s hot “So You Think You Can Dance” (4.3/13 in 18-49, 11.07m) and placed third in total viewers, also lagging a repeat of “CSI” on CBS (10.04 million). It went on to easily lead the 10 o’clock hour, though.
Cleveland and San Antonio rep the 17th and 37th largest markets, marking just the second time in the last dozen years that neither team in the NBA Finals was from one of the country’s 10 biggest cities.
Game certainly did well in these cities Thursday — a 34.3 household rating/51 share in Cleveland (equating to about 527,000 homes) and a 43.7/58 in Cleveland (338,000 homes) — but didn’t make much of an impact in other big markets like New York and Boston. And it doesn’t help that few outside Ohio are giving the Cavaliers much of a shot in this best-of-seven series, which resumed Sunday night.
The low-rated start continues a playoffs-long trend of soft numbers for this year’s postseason, with ABC as well as the league’s cable partners, ESPN and TNT, all down vs. last year.
Elsewhere Thursday, CBS unscripted series “Pirate Master” (1.9/7 in 18-49, 6.21m) declined 17% from its modest bow of a week earlier and will be setting sail for a new night — Tuesday — come July.
And at USA, limited-run series “The Starter Wife” (1.5/4, 3.92m) tumbled 32% from its pretty good bow of the previous week (2.2/6, 5.39m), though it was cable’s top draw of the night in 18-49 and 25-54 (1.6/4).