The NBA delivered its most watched opener since 2012 last week. Over the Dec. 22-25 stretch, the league’s national telecasts across TNT, ESPN and TBS were up 67% from the previous season’s opening week — averaging 3.4 million total viewers vs. 2.0 million in 2019’s October opening week, according to Nielsen data.
TNT’s Dec. 22 doubleheader featuring the Brooklyn Nets’ 125-99 win over the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers’ 116-109 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers proved to be the league’s most watched opening night in three years, averaging 2.9 million total viewers.
On Christmas Day, ESPN averaged 2.8 million viewers with the Miami Heat’s 111-98 win against the New Orleans Pelicans and the Clippers’ 121-108 defeat of the Denver Nuggets. In primetime on Christmas, ESPN and sister network ABC drew 7 million viewers with a simulcast of the Lakers’ 138-115 rout of the Dallas Mavericks.
The NBA shifted to a December start for its 2020-21 season after 2019-20 was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 NBA Finals, in which the Lakers triumphed over the Heat in six games, wrapped in October, just weeks before the new season would normally be set to start.
The NBA also saw opening-week viewing through its live-game subscription service, NBA League Pass, increase, with average minutes watched up 67% from last season’s opening week, according to the league. The league also generated increased engagement on its social-media platforms, with video views up 36% from last year and minutes watched increased by 279%. The NBA’s YouTube account enjoyyed its most watched week ever during the 2020 opening week.