2ND UPDATE: From the early metrics onward, it was pretty obvious that ratings for Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals were going to take a drubbing. The final U.S. numbers are in for the May 30 matchup between the victorious Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors, and the bruises are still showing.
With a total viewership of 13.31 million, the opener of this year’s NBC championship series is the worst a Game 1 has done since 2009, when the first game of the L.A. Lakers-Orlando Magic sereis pulled in an audience of 13.04 million on ABC.
That decade-ago result was in the soil of the metered markets and fast affiliate numbers too, but the sting is sharper when you get to the final stats.
Year-to-year, and with the notation that one of the finalists is in a market that doesn’t register in Nielsen numbers on this side of the border, the 2019 Game 1 tumbled 23% in sets of eyeballs from the results of the 2018 Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers OT battle in Game 1. Among the key demo of adults 18-49, Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals went down 24% from the comparable court standoff of last year.
As much as ABC wants to scream “Foul!” this is the Finals they’ve gotta play with.
UPDATED, May 31 PM: It’s a very good day in Canada right now as the Great White North’s only NBA team showed the current champions last night in Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals that they have real bite.
However, with ratings and viewership sharply down, it’s highly unlikely that ABC are celebrating anywhere near the hoopla that the Toronto Raptors and their fans are reveling in.The final score in last night’s Game 1 in Toronto the Good (Yes, that’s really one of its nicknames) was 118-109 over the Golden State Warriors. In terms of another score, we don’t have the final viewership yet for last night’s match-up in T.O. from Nielsen due to a delay because of the Memorial Day holiday.
We expect to get the total U.S. audience numbers early next week.
Having said that, while U.S. numbers are slow, the Canadian numbers are literally off the charts.
The Raptors first NBA Finals appearance ever shattered all basketball records in the our Northern neighbor with 3.5 million viewers. Almost a tenth of the population of the Dominion of Canada, that giant crowd saw the country tuning in on a simulcast combo of national channels Sportsnet National+, SportsnetOne+ and RDS+.
Previously, the most watched NBA game ever in Canada was Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 24 where the Raptors beat the Bucks 100-94. That tense face-off, which finished the series, was seen by 3.1 million Canadians.
With the Raptors now leading the NBA Finals 1-0, you can be damn sure the numbers will verge on record-breaking or even create a new record for Game 2 on June 2.
PREVIOUSLY, May 31, 2019 7:01 AM: UPDATED with fast affiliate ratings: The opening matchup of the 2019 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors made history last night, in more ways than one.
Played before a sellout crowd in The 6 that included one former Prime Minister and a very passionate Drake, Game 1 of this year’s NBC championship series was the first to been played outside the U.S. and the first NBA Finals game to see a non-American team win. The Raptors’ 118-109 victory over the reigning champs showed that this battle for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy isn’t going to be a walk for Steph Curry and the Warriors.
With a 10.1/19 in metered market ratings for Thursday’s 9-11:45 PM ET game, this year’s NBA Finals are certainly not going to be a walk for ABC, either. Those numbers are off a hard 18% from Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals in the early metrics.
In fact, with only one U.S. market team in competition and Canadian viewership not counting, this year’s opener is the worst any Game 1 has performed in metered-market ratings in a decade, dipping just below the results of Game 1 in 2009, when the Los Angeles Lakers beat the visiting Orlando Magic on June 1 of that year.
Also shown on the Disney-owned network, that Game 1 in the far-off TV era of 2009 went on to earn 13.04 million viewers. Steady with 2017, Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals pulled in an audience of nearly 17.4 million as the Warriors topped the then LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers 124-114 in overtime on May 31 of that year.
Despite the declines, ABC easily won the night overall in fast affiliates with a 3.3/15 among adults 18-49 and 9.6 million viewers. Subject to change as live events almost always are, the first game of the 2019 NBA Finals drew a 3.9/18 in the key demo between 9-11 PM and 10.8 million viewers — which, to put it mildly, is down from last year.
As usual, against the game, the rest of the nets played it safe or with repeats. Like last week, CBS was a mixed of old and new, with the latter being Life In Pieces (0.7, 4.78M) and Elementary (0.5/, 3.87M). The latter was even with last week’s seventh and final-season premiere in the key demo, while the former was up a tenth. Fox’s Paradise Hotel (0.4, 1.49M) was also unchanged from its May 23 show, as were the CW’s iZombie (0.2, 910,000) and In The Dark (0.2, 850K).
Back after a month’s absence, the recently canceled A.P. Bio had a double shot on Thursday as did Abby’s. The Mike O’Brien-created comedy slipped a tenth from its last original in its first show of the night (0.4, 2.35M) and held even with that result in its 8:30 PM offering (0.4, 1.67M). The also pink-slipped Abby’s was flat as its last original at 9 PM (0.4, 1.55M) and then dipped for its 9:30 PM broadcast (0.3, 1.44M).
We’ll update with the final NBA Finals Game 1 numbers in a bit, but until then, check out some of the best of the action from up North last night:
— NBA (@NBA) May 31, 2019
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