Heat-Lakers game draws best regular-season rating in six years

ABC drew big ratings for its marquee NBA game on Christmas Day, racking up the best number for a regular-season hoops game in six years.

Total viewer information won’t be available for a few more days, but Saturday’s 5 p.m. ET tip-off between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers earned a preliminary 6.4 household rating, according to Nielsen — up a big 45% vs. last year’s comparable Alphabet game between the Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers (4.4).

This is the biggest rating for a regular-season NBA game since the Christmas Day matchup on ABC in 2004, also pitting the Lakers against the Heat (7.3).

Last year’s Lakers-Cavaliers contest on Christmas ended up averaging 8.32 million viewers in the nationals, while the 2004 Lakers-Heat game drew 13.18 million. Based on rough projections, Saturday’s victory by the Heat over the Lakers should top 11 million.

The highly anticipated game, in which the LeBron James-led Heat took on the Lakers for the first time — and pounding them with a 96-80 win — earned a 15.5 metered market household rating in Miami. And in Los Angeles, the game earned a 15.0 rating, the highest since the 2004 Christmas Day game did a 17.0.

Earlier in the day, ABC’s Boston-Orlando matchup garnered a preliminary 4.6 national household rating, an increase of 39% over last year’s matchup between the same teams.

At noon ET, the Chicago-New York matchup produced a 2.7 preliminary national rating on ESPN, and the cabler’s evening doubleheader produced a 1.4 for Oklahoma City-Denver and a 1.3 for Portland-Golden State.

Also on Christmas, a special Saturday night NFL contest between the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals averaged 7.8 million viewers (not including over-the-air stations in Dallas and Phoenix), making it the second most-watched telecast of the day, behind only Heat-Lakers.

Though the game was meaningless from a playoff perspective, auds still tune in to watch the Cowboys, who have now accounted for the three most-watched NFL Network telecasts to date. This season, NFLN’s eight-game late-season package averaged 5.7 million cable viewers — beating the previous high average of 5.5 million set last season.

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