Series averaged 16.9 million, slightly up from last year

The fifth and final game of the NBA Finals drew 18.5 million viewers Thursday night, making it the most-watched game of the series and a notch above last year’s game five.

The series, won by the Miami Heat, averaged 16.9 million viewers, up from the 16.1 million who watched last year’s Miami-Dallas matchup. It was the most-viewed NBA Finals since 2004, when the Detroit Pistons defeated the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the 18-49 demo, Thursday’s game drew a 7.1 rating/20 share. That was actually slightly down from the fourth game (7.4/22) of the series.

While Heat fans were excited to see their team win the championship in five games, ABC was clearly hoping the series would have continued. A sixth and seventh game would have brought more eyeballs than the first five games. In last year’s Miami-Dallas game six, a healthy 23.8 million viewers tuned in.

Also helped by ABC’s NBA coverage were the pre-game “Jimmy Kimmel Live” primetime specials. “Live” averaged 3.1 million viewers over the five games and 1.0/4 in the demo, both substantial increases from “Kimmel’s” perf in its latenight timeslot.

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