The National Basketball Association’s so-called “real season,” i.e., “the playoffs,” is about to start, the time when even casual fans jump on the hoops bandwagon and pay attention.

This year, the playoff games have strong winds at their backs, as ESPN is reporting that NBA viewership for the 2017-18 regular season was up across all platforms as measured by Nielsen.

New young talent emerging in Philadelphia and Minnesota, stalwarts like LeBron James and James Harden continuing their excellence, and surprising strength from teams in Milwaukee and New Orleans drove the excitement during the regular season. Now the championship quest begins, with the first round of playoff games set to start this Saturday. Televised coverage can be found via ESPN, ABC-TV and TNT.

ESPN averaged 1,628,000 viewers across its 87-game telecasts this season, up four percent from the 1,566,000 last season. The 87-game schedule marks the most games ESPN has ever aired during the regular season.

Additionally, ESPN reports that game audiences were up strongly across several key demos:

  • M25-54: up 16 percent
  • P25-54: up 10 percent
  • M18-49: up 9 percent
  • M18-34: up 5 percent
  • P18-34: up 4 percent

Finally, NBA Countdown, ESPN’s NBA pre-game show, averaged 637,000 viewers, up one percent from 631,000 viewers last season.

On the digital side, ESPN’s digital media logged 169 million users who spent close to seven billion minutes on the site. The total users was a 10 percent gain, while the time spent increased a whopping 19 percent.