UPDATED: LeBron James’ first game back in Miami since re-joining Cleveland highlighted NBA’s Christmas Day coverage, airing in ABC’s late-afternoon window once reserved for the L.A. Lakers and its star Kobe Bryant. Further indicating how Lakers’ fortunes have fallen lately, for the first time ever, the once ratings juggernaut team was dropped from the ABC Christmas Day lineup and didn’t even make it on ESPN.
The Heat-Cavaliers face-off, won by Miami 101-91, drew a 5.5 overnight rating, up 12% from last year’s game between the Heat and L.A. Lakers. In Miami, the matchup logged a massive 17.2 rating, making it the highest-rated NBA regular-season game ever in the market. In the fast nationals, the game averaged 9.3 million viewers, up +19%.
In the early ABC window, the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the San Antonio Spurs, 114-106, in a rematch of the 2014 Western Conference Finals. The broadcast delivered a 4.0 overnight rating, up +8% percent from Oklahoma City’s lopsided victory over the Knicks in 2013. (In the fast nationals, the viewership for the game was 6 million, up +10%). Last year, both games on ABC tumbled year-to-year (-18% and -37%) as two of the league’s biggest stars, New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony and the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, were sidelined with injuries. The average for the doubleheader yesterday was a 4.8.
In an unusual setup thus year, ABC and ESPN covered three of the five NBA Christmas Day games instead of all five as the two networks normally do. The lone game on ESPN yesterday was Washington Wizards’ 102-91 victory over the New York Knicks at noon ET, which delivered a 2.1 overnight rating, down -9% from the corresponding game between the Chicago Bulls and the Brooklyn Nets last year. In Washington D.C., the matchup posted a 3.6, the second-highest rated Wizards regular-season game on ESPN ever in the market. (The game’s audience was 3 million.)
The remaining two NBA Christmas Day games aired on TNT – Los Angeles Lakers (again without Bryant) vs. Chicago Bulls at 8 PM ET drew 3.9 million total viewers to rank as the most-viewed primetime game ever to be televised on Christmas. It edged last year’s telecast of the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs game on ESPN, which averaged nearly 3.4 million viewers to also set an all-time best for an NBA Christmas Day primetime game.
In the nightcap, the Warriors against the Clippers logged 3.1 million viewers. The doubleheader averaged 3.5 million viewers, up 94% over 2008, the last time TNT aired a primetime doubleheader on Christmas Day. That was up from the record-setting triple header for ESPN last year, which averaged 3.0 million viewers.
Powered by ABC’s gains, ABC’s and ESPN’s Christmas Day tripleheader combined averaged a 4.0 overnight rating, up +8% from the comparable three windows in 2013. Vs. the five-game average last year, the tripleheader was up +29%.
As usual, the NBA coverage on ABC, which averaged 7.7 million viewers, up +16% from last year, gave the network’s primetime Christmas lineup a boost. The network dominated last night with a 1.8 average adults 18-49 rating for the animated Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas special (1.9, a five-year high) and the feature Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1.8 ). They were up +58% and +38%, respectively, from last year when the two aired on Christmas Eve.