UPDATED: Two of the top U.S. professional sports leagues, the NBA and the NFL, went head-to-head yesterday. With Christmas falling on a Sunday, the traditional five-game Christmas Day basketball lineup faced the two Sunday pro football matchups.
The only NBA game not to go against NFL football, the Boston Celtics’ victory over the New York Knicks in the noon window on ESPN, drew a 2.4 overnight rating, up 4% from last year (New Orleans-Miami) and the highest-rated ESPN Christmas noon game since 2012. The telecast drew 3.748 million total live viewers (ESPN + streaming), up +17% from 2015 and ranking as the most-watched Christmas NBA game on ESPN in the slot since 2012.
The marquee Christmas Day matchup, the 2016 NBA Finals rematch between the champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors at 2:30 PM on ABC, delivered in a big way. The game, won by the Cavaliers in a 109-108 thriller after a fourth-quarter comeback, posted a 5.9 overnight rating, matching the highest-rated Christmas NBA game in four years — 2012’s New York Knicks-Los Angeles Lakers face-off, also a 5.9 — on ABC in the 2:30 PM ET window.
The Cavaliers-Warriors game, which was up 44% compared with Chicago-Oklahoma City in the same window last year, also topped the 4:30 PM Steelers-Ravens NFL game head-to-head for the 45 minutes they competed, peaking with a 6.8 rating at 5 PM.
The Cavaliers-Warriors showdown was the most-streamed NBA Christmas game ever. It generated 14.8 million total minutes, 359,000 unique viewers and an average minute audience of 87,000.
Overall, the game averaged 10.163 million viewers on ABC +streaming, making it the network’s most-watched Christmas NBA broadcast in 12 years in the early (2:30 PM) window, up +73% from last year, and the fifth-most watched regular-season NBA game in ABC history.
It was a rough going for the rest of the NBA lineup against the two NFL games. The Bulls-Spurs matchup at 5 PM ET on ABC (3.4) tumbled 50% from last year’s game (Cleveland-Golden State). The 8 PM and 10:30 PM games on ESPN, Timberwolves at Thunder (1.0) and Lakers-Clippers (1.1), were down 60% and 50% year-to-year, respectively. Last year’s teams featured in the slots were San Antonio-Houston (8 PM) and Lakers-Clippers (10:30 PM).