21.0 million tune in to watch Lakers defeat Celtics

ABC’s coverage of the seventh and deciding game of the NBA Finals scored monster ratings on Thursday, logging the sport’s biggest ratings in 14 years. Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” the only original broadcast program on the night, took a hit as expected.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ victory over the Boston Celtics averaged an 8.5 rating/24 share in adults 18-49 and 21.0 million viewers overall on ABC’s stations from 9 to 11 p.m., with Nielsen nationals expected to rise sharply since these early numbers don’t include viewership in the West (where the game started at 6 p.m.) or the conclusion of the contest in the East (where it ended after 11 p.m.).

An audience north of 25 million is expected, and it’s likely that the game will come in as the top-rated NBA game since the sixth and final game of the 1998 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz on NBC (35.9 million).

In Nielsen’s metered-market overnights, Thursday’s game scored an 18.2 household rating, well above Tuesday’s 12.3 and the best for an NBA Final since the Utah-Chicago series. In Los Angeles, Game 7 delivered a 39.7 overnight household rating to become the highest-rated NBA game in the market since ABC began carrying the NBA in 2003; the game delivered a 33.9 rating in Boston.

At Fox, following a repeat of “Glee” (1.5/5 in 18-49, 4.0 million viewers overall), the first results show edition of “So You Think You Can Dance” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 6.1 million viewers overall) ran second for its hour in demos but was on the low side opposite the hoops action.

CBS served up repeats of its regular Thursday dramas “CSI” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 8.3 million viewers overall) and “The Mentalist” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 8.2 million viewers overall), along with a special 8 p.m. encore of “Mentalist” at 8 (1.1/4 in 18-49, 7.2 million viewers overall). They helped the net maintain a pulse on the tough night, running second to basketball each hour in total viewers.

NBC delivered soft numbers for its comedies, including an original of summer burn-off series “100 Questions” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 2.0 million viewers overall), airing at 8:30 between repeats of “Community” (0.8/3 in 18-49, 2.6 million viewers overall) and “The Office” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.5 million viewers overall). They were followed by encores of “30 Rock” at 9:30 (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.4 million viewers overall), a special “The Office” at 10 (0.9/2 in 18-49, 2.0 million viewers overall) and a special “Parks and Recreation” at 10:30 (0.7/2 in 18-49, 1.8 million viewers overall).

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