The NBA Playoffs are heating up, an auspicious sign for advertisers, movie studios and basketball stakeholders alike. The Eastern Conference Finals, which tilted toward Boston after the first two games, rode a decisive LeBron James-led comeback win by Cleveland on Saturday to tally the second-highest rating in ESPN’s years of airing conference finals series.
The 30-point shellacking of the Celtics by the Cavaliers drew a 5.1 metered market rating, up 11% from the network’s telecast of the third game of last year’s Western Conference Finals. It also was 2% better than Game 3 of the same Eastern Conference Finals matchup — Cleveland against Boston — in 2017.
TNT will air Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals tonight between the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets. The series is tied 1-1. Both conference finals series, and the NBA Finals slated to begin May 31 on ABC, are high-profile environments for many summer movies and major product launches, increasingly so during the NBA’s ratings surge in recent years.
Even though Cleveland dominated Game 3 in the Eastern finals, ESPN said the telecast peaked with a 5.7 metered market rating three times: between 9:15 and 9:30PM, 10 and 10:15PM and 10:15-10:30PM ET. Through three games, ESPN said its coverage is up 19% from its Western Conference Finals coverage last year, which featured the Warriors against the San Antonio Spurs. It is also up 27% from last year’s Cleveland-Boston Eastern Conference Finals.
Metered market ratings for the entire NBA Playoffs on ESPN, which began in April, are up 7% over 2017 levels. Pre- and post-game programming is also showing gains. NBA Countdown delivered a 1.3 metered market rating Saturday, up 8% from last year’s one-hour Game 3 preview show.
Game 4 in the East is Monday night.