UPDATE: Game 4 of the NBA Finals ended up averaging a 7.6 rating/26 share in adults 18-49 and 19.84 million viewers overall, eclipsing Sunday’s Game 2 (7.4/24 in 18-49, 19.17 million) as this year’s top-rated game of pro basketball’s championship round and up more than 25% in both categories vs. last year’s Game 4 between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. The last time a Game 4 of the Finals rated higher than last night was in 2004 when the Detroit Pistons took on the Los Angeles Lakers (9.1 rating in 18-49, 20.29 million) in ABC’s second year airing the event.
Given that the Finals are guaranteed at least a sixth game to decide the best-of-seven series, ABC appears poised to finish with the largest audience for any NBA Finals in the 17 years since Michael Jordan last appeared in them — on NBC against the Utah Jazz. ABC’s previous high was the 18.14 million who watched the Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers series in 2010, with that year’s average boosted considerably by the whopping 28 million-plus who watched Game 7.
ABC’s coverage of the NBA Finals continues to track as the highest-rated in more than a decade, as Thursday’s Game 4 delivered this year’s top overnight score yet and once again outdrew the other broadcast networks combined.
The Golden State Warriors’ 103-82 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers averaged a 13.9 overnight household rating in Nielsen’s metered-markets — up 31% from last year’s 10.6 for Game 4 between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. This was the highest rating yet for this year’s Finals, ahead of the 12.9 for both Games 1 and 2 and the 13.7 for Game 3.
Through four games, the NBA Finals is averaging a 13.1 overnight rating, up 26% from last year’s 10.4 and the best in more than a decade. Total-viewer estimates will be made available later today by Nielsen, with last night’s game expected to draw in the vicinity of 19 million viewers.
Roughly 45.7% of homes in Cleveland were watching the game, down from Tuesday’s monster 49.0 rating but still the second-highest rated NBA game ever on ABC in the market. In the Bay Area, the game delivered a 30.5 rating, the third-highest rated NBA game ever on ABC (behind Games 2 and 3 of this year’s Finals).
The series moves to Oakland for Game 5 on Sunday night and then back to Cleveland for Game 6 on Tuesday. If necessary, a seventh game would be back in the Bay Area next Friday.
In the affiliate-based preliminary national averages for Thursday, ABC’s 5.3 rating in adults 18-49 bested the combined totals of CBS, NBC, Fox and CW (3.3) by 61%.
Elsewhere, Fox ran second with the season finale of “Bones” (1.1 rating/4 share in adults 18-49, 4.9 million viewers overall), which was on par with last week (and looks like it edge up to a 1.2 in the nationals), and “Wayward Pines” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 4.2 million viewers overall), which was up a tenth to match its highest score to date.
At NBC, “Dateline” had another solid outing leading off the night (1.2/5 in 18-49, 6.4 million viewers overall), up a tenth from last week, and “Aquarius” (0.8/3 in 18-49, 3.7 million viewers overall) picked up a tenth after taking a tumble last week. Not holding up as well was “Hannibal” (0.5/2 in 18-49, 1.7 million viewers overall), which was down 0.2 from last week’s premiere.
CW’s “Beauty and the Beast” kicked off its season (0.3/1 in 18-49, 0.9 million viewers overall), on par with its low premiere score of last year. The net fared similarly at 9 p.m. with the special “iHeart Radio Summer Pool Party” (0.3/1 in 18-49, 0.9 million viewers overall).
CBS’ repeat of “The Big Bang Theory” (1.4/6 in 18-49, 7.0 million viewers overall) was Thursday’s top-rated series telecast, and was followed by encores of “The Odd Couple” (1.1/4 in 18-49, 5.4 million viewers overall), “Mom” (0.9/3 in 18-49, 5.1 million viewers overall), “Mike & Molly” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 5.0 million viewers overall) and “Elementary” (0.6/2 in 18-49, 3.9 million viewers overall).
Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: ABC, 5.3/18; Fox, 1.2/4; CBS, 1.0/3; Univision, 0.9/3; NBC, 0.8/3; Telemundo, 0.5/2; CW, 0.3/1.
In total viewers: ABC, 14.0 million; CBS, 5.1 million; Fox, 4.6 million; NBC, 3.9 million; Univision, 2.5 million; Telemundo, 1.2 million; CW, 0.9 million.