The NBA Finals begin tomorrow night on ABC with the San Antonio Spurs taking their talents to South Beach to face the favored Miami Heat. The remainder of the NBA playoff games will air on ABC, so broadcast-only customers will have access, but the playoffs up to this point, the Eastern Conference Finals in particular, have been a huge cable TV ratings success.
The seventh and final game of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers, which the Heat ended up winning handily, garnered a 7.1 overnight rating and 11.5 million viewers, making the game the highest viewed in the history of TNT’s NBA coverage.
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The game was the most watched and highest rated NBA game on TNT of all-time, and also the most watched and highest rated NBA game of this season. Game 7 also earned a mind-blowing 31.7 rating in Miami, and a 21.9 rating in Indianapolis. Not to be outdone, the post-game airing of Inside the NBA picked up a 3.3 overnight, its highest rating in two years.
In total, the Eastern Conference Finals averaged 8.4 million viewers, which was up 8% from TNT’s airing last year of the Thunder-Spurs matchup in the Western Conference Finals. The 5.2 rating was also slightly up compared to last year’s 5.0.
Now, it’s time for ESPN to indulge in some of the Heat-based ratings bonanza. The Western Conference Finals on ESPN and ABC this year was a ratings flop, and fingers had to be crossed in Bristol that the Pacers wouldn’t pull out Game 7 to create an unappetizing Indiana-San Antonio final. With LeBron James and the Heat winning the East, ESPN at least has a nice chance at making it four straight FInals averaging a 10.0 rating on ABC after five straight years under the double digit mark.
It’s unfortunate the ESPN/ABC team will be covering the finals, as the TNT postgame is a much stronger program, and Marv Albert, TNT’s lead play-by-play guy, should be synonymous with NBA Finals coverage. But the ratings will be high either way.