The Last Dance has been an oasis in the sports desert since ESPN moved up their highly anticipated documentary series on the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls. The first installments pulled in 6.1 million viewers over the two hour broadcast last Sunday, and there was little dropoff for Week 2.
Episodes 3 and 4, focusing on Dennis Rodman, Phil Jackson, and the Bulls-Pistons rivalry, drew 5.9 million viewers across the two hours, with 6.1 million tuning in for the third episode and 5.7 million staying around for the fourth. That gives The Last Dance the four highest rating episodes of any ESPN documentary, as You Don’t Know Bo previously held that title with 3.6 million viewers.
ESPN also reported that the first two episodes added nearly 3 million viewers from “time-shifted and on-demand viewing,” meaning the total rating for those is 9.6 million and 8.8 million, respectively. Those are massive numbers for a documentary on a 20-plus year old subject, and is representative of how starved sports fans are for some original, new content to watch — provided it meets a certain level of intrigue.
Without live sports to offer constant viewing experiences, sports fans have shown that right now they are happy to set aside some time to settle in for whatever big event is able to be put in front of them. The NFL Draft pulled in record viewership from Thursday to Sunday on ESPN, the NFL Network, and digital platforms, and Sunday only kept the good vibes going at the Worldwide Leader.