After dipping last season, the NBA’s average television viewership rose to a four-year high in 2017-18.
For the regular season, which ended earlier this month, Nielsen-measured average total viewers for national telecasts of NBA games was up 8% from 2016-17 at 1.28 million. That’s across the league’s four television-network partners — ABC, ESPN, NBA TV, TNT — and the highest average since the NBA’s 2013-14 season.
All four networks saw viewership climb this season, with broadcaster ABC up 17% from last season. On cable, TNT was up 13% from last season. ESPN was up 4% and NBA TV up 1%.
Under a television contract that went into effect last season and runs through 2024-25, ESPN, which produces the ABC telecasts, and TNT are paying a combined $2.66 billion per year to broadcast NBA games.
The increases countered downward viewership trends in other sports, particularly NFL football, which saw average total viewers fall 9.7%, from 16.5 million in 2016 to 14.9 million in 2017.
On local regional sports networks, NBA games averaged a 2.4 rating, a 4% increase from the 2016-17 season.
The 2018 NBA playoffs begin Saturday. Last year’s NBA finals match up between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers was the most watched finals since 1998. The 2017 championship averaged 20.4 million total viewers, up from 20.2 million viewers for the previous season’s seven-game series. In 2017, the Warriors defeated the Cavaliers in five games.