NBC’s regular broadcast of “Sunday Night Football” drew more than twice as many viewers Sunday night as the Los Angeles Lakers championship win over the Miami Heat to clinch the NBA Finals, in a show of what sports and TV schedules changed by the coronavirus pandemic look like when different leagues face off in seasons in which they don’t normally play.
The NBA captured an average of 5.5 million viewers, according to early national data from Nielsen, compared with 11.5 million viewers for “Sunday Night Football.” In a more normal year, the NBA Finals would take place in June, not October.
Both the NBA and NFL numbers will rise in final numbers.
Viewership for the last game in the 2019 NBA Finals fell 57% when compared to the last game of 2019’s NBA finals, which featured the Toronto Raptors winning against the Golden State Warriors.
The coronavirus pandemic has scrambled the sports world, spurring the NBA and the NHL to finish suspended seasons in parts of the year that are normally used only by the NFL and Major League Baseball. But the NBA has moved its play and post-season events to a Walt Disney facility near Orlando, Florida, and kept its active teams in “bubble” to prevent the spread of coronavirus from player to player and from team to team.
NBC won the night in terms of both overall viewers and audience in the demographic most coveted by advertisers, people between 18 and 49.