A slate of tantalizing match-ups, highlighted by the long-awaited rumble between the defending champion Lakers and the big three of the Heat, delivered ABC and ESPN’s highest cumulative audience ever for its Christmas Day marathon of games.
Unsurprisingly, the Heat-Lakers tilt on ABC was the biggest draw of the day, delivering a 6.4 fast national household rating, up 45 percent over last Christmas’ Kobe-LeBron showdown, from back when King James still played for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was also ABC’s highest-rated regular season game since a different kind of Heat-Lakers rivalry game – back in 2004, the first season after Shaquille O’Neal had been traded away from the Lakers.
But combined, the five games – starting with Bulls-Knicks on ESPN (which drew a 2.7 rating, up from the 1.9 that the Knicks drew a year ago against the Heat), then shifting to Boston-Orlando on ABC (a 4.6, up from last year’s 3.3 for the same matchup), Heat-Lakers, then an ESPN nightcap of Nuggets-Thunder (1.4) and Trail Blazers-Warriors (1.3) – averaged a 5.5 Nielsen Fast National rating for the ABC games and a 1.8 for the ESPN games. That was up 45 percent for ABC compared to last year’s 3.8, and 20 percent compared to ESPN’s 1.5 a year ago.