Basketball has been one of the fastest growing sports in the world for several years now, and the new multi-billion dollar television contracts signed last fall with ESPN and Turner will continue that growth at an astronomical pace.
As it stands, the 2015 NBA Finals have already shattered previous Nielson’s ratings records.
According to NBA.com, these are the highest-rated Finals ever on ABC since they began airing them in the 2002-2003 season. Overall, ABC has seen an astounding 25 percent increase in total viewership from last year’s Finals. Through five games, the total number has been hovering a bit above 19 million and could reach the 20 million viewer mark, which would make it the highest rated Finals series since the 1998 Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz, according to The New York Times.
This year’s sharp increase is at least partially due to it featuring two of the league’s most popular stars – LeBron James and Steph Curry – but it’s also a bit more multifaceted. Via Richard Sandomir of NYTimes:
Artie Bulgrin, ESPN’s senior vice president for global research, noted other reasons for this year’s higher viewership: James and the league’s rising popularity; the passion of the San Francisco and Cleveland markets; and social media. “In tight games,” he said, “word of mouth tells people who aren’t watching that they should. We determined that 70 percent of all social TV tweets during Game 3 were about Game 3.”
It’s clear that social media – Twitter, in particular – plays a huge role in the NBA, but that’s a mind-boggling number. Sandomir goes on to point out that, for every major professional sport, viewership tends to increase as a playoff series moves into Games 6 and 7.
The Golden State Warriors hold a 3-2 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers as the series shifts back to Cleveland for Game 6 Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST on ABC.