Sunday night’s NBA Eastern Conference Finals matchup between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics set a cable TV record with a 7.9 overnight rating, which is the highest rating achieved by an NBA playoff broadcast on cable television since records have been kept. Record keeping for NBA playoff games on cable began in 2003. This game was aired on ESPN.
The Heat-Celtics game, a back and forth barnburner that went into overtime and found the Celtics victorious after a missed final three-point attempt by Dwyane Wade at the buzzer, was up 39 percent from the equivalent game last year, played by the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks. In Boston, where the game was played, the game drew a 20.7 rating, the highest ever for a cable playoff game in that market. This 20.7 rating means that more than twenty percent of the area’s homes were tuned in to the Celtics overtime win.
The playoffs are a big time for television ratings for the NBA. On the whole, this year’s playoffs are up from last, which puts them among the highest in cable television history for basketball. Earlier rounds of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs were also up from previous years, due to the dedication of NBC and the creation of the NBC Sports Network, but the NBA is doing even better as it gets closer to the finals. Boston has always been a loyal basketball-watching market, due to the long-term success of the Celtics as a franchise, but a lot of the ratings success has to do with nationwide fans rooting for or against the Miami Heat and NBA MVP LeBron James.
No matter which team continues on to the finals (the series is now tied 2-2, heading back to Miami for Game 5), ratings should be good. Will NBA Finals games set ratings as well? It seems very likely that they will.