UPDATE: In updated national estimates from Nielsen, ABC’s doubleheader averaged 7.69 million viewers, up 16% from last year. The Cleveland-Miami nightcap drew 9.30 million (up 19% from last year’s Lakers-Heat game in the window).
The earlier ABC game (Oklahoma City-San Antonio) drew 5.99 million, and the day’s opener on ESPN between Washington and New York averaged 3.05 million.
ABC’s marquee doubleheader of NBA action — highlighted by LeBron James’ return to Miami as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers — generated hearty numbers on Christmas, a day that featured five games across the league’s three television partners. And TNT closed strong by logging the largest-ever cable audience for a primetime doubleheader on the holiday.
In Nielsen’s metered-market overnights, ABC’s late afternoon/early evening contest between the Cavaliers and Heat averaged a 5.5 rating from 5 to 7:50 p.m. ET, a 12% jump above last year’s 4.9 rating during the same window for the game between the Heat and Los Angeles Lakers.
The Heat’s 101-91 upset victory earned a huge 17.2 rating in Miami, making it the highest-rated NBA regular-season game ever in the market.
Earlier on ABC, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 114-106 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in a rematch of the 2014 Western Conference Finals averaged a 4.0 overnight rating.
ESPN kicked off the day’s NBA action at noon ET with the game between the Washington Wizards and the lowly New York Knicks, which netted a 2.1 overnight rating, including a 3.6 in the nation’s capital.
For the day, ABC and ESPN’s tripleheader combined to average a 4.0 overnight rating, which is up 8% from the comparable three windows in 2013.
TNT averaged a 2.3 overnight household rating for its primetime telecasts of the Los Angeles Lakers against the Chicago Bulls (2.6) and the Golden State Warriors vs. the Los Angeles Clippers (2.0), winning the night among cablers.
In total viewers, the Lakers-Bulls contest (even without Kobe Bryant, who sat out) delivered the largest-ever primetime audience for a Christmas game (3.9 million viewers), and the Warriors-Clippers game drew 3.1 million. Combined, the games averaged 3.5 million viewers — nearly double the 1.8 million the network attracted the last time in aired a primetime doubleheader in 2008.
In Los Angeles, the Lakers game did a 5.0 household rating while the Clippers contest netted a 4.2.
The NBA on Christmas Day has been a tradition dating back to 1947. This was the seventh consecutive year the league aired five games on the day, and the third time that all of its national networks (ABC, ESPN and TNT) aired games.