NBA Finals Game 1 Scores Viewership & Demo High With 19.2M Watching


UPDATE, 1:16 PM: The Golden State Warriors won Game 1 of the NBA Finals 104-89 over the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the real victors last night were the NBA and ABC. Last night’s 9-11:40 PM ET game in Oakland was watched by 19.2 million viewers with a 7.3 rating among adults 18-49, making it the most watched NBA Finals opener ever on ABC.

Beating the 7.0 rating Game 1 of the 2004 NBA Finals scored when the Detroit Pistons beat the L.A. Lakers 87-75 on June 6, last night’s matchup is now the best Game 1 demo result ABC has had since it started airing the series in 2003. Last night’s game had a rise of 8% over the record-breaking audience and a uptick of 6% in the key demo over what Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals had on June 3, 2015 when the same two teams hit the court. That night, the Warriors needed overtime to win and eventually went on to win the series.

Game 2 of this year’s NBA Finals is Sunday on ABC.

The Disney-owned net also saw its Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game Night rise by 18% in total viewers and 9% in the demo over its comparative night in 2015. That’s a viewership high for the JKL NBA Finals Game 1 show.

PREVIOUS, 8:32 AM: The opening game of the 2016 NBA Finals last night was a bit of déjà vu on ABC as the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers faced off for the second year in a row. The flashback was more intense as Stephen Curry and the Bay Area team claimed victory – just like they did in Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals. Of course, even with all the innate drama of the first game of the Finals, last night’s 104-89 walloping of LeBron James and crew was a lot easier ride for the defending champs than their much tighter 108-100 win of June 4, 2015.

While there was no double-digit surge, what was also a repeat of last year was a new Game 1 ratings record for ABC and the NBA — just barely.

With a 13.1/23 result in metered market ratings, last night’s 9-11:45 PM ET Game 1 was up 1.5% over the opening game of the 2015 NBA Finals – which was up 24% over the start of the 2014 NBA Finals when Lebron and the Miami Heat lost to the San Antonio Spurs 110-95. The MM results for the 2015 Game 1 were the best ABC had ever had since it started showing the series about a decade ago and the best overall since 2001  – a honor that now goes to the 2016 Game 1. Last night’s game peaked with 14.8 MM rating in the 10:45 – 11 PM ET slot.

The June 3, 2015 Warriors v. Cavs NBA Finals Game 1 went on to score a 6.9/25 rating among adults 18-49 and a surging 17.8 million viewers. That was the second best demo result ABC had ever had for a Game 1 and the most-watched b-ball NBA Finals opener for the Disney-owned net.

The pre-game NBA Countdown show pulled in a 4.7 MM rating, up 2% from 2015 and 20% from 2014.

CBS was all encores last night while NBC, Fox and the CW had original programming like Bones and the debut of the final season of Beauty and the Beast. We will update with those ratings and more NBA Finals numbers later. And if you don’t know – the Warriors and the Cavs meet up for Game 2 in Oakland again on Sunday at 8 PM ET.

UPDATE, 10:45 AM: The numbers will undoubtedly change in the finals but fast affiliate ratings have last night’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals (6.0/21) pretty steady with 2015. In fact, the Golden State Warriors’ 104-89 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers was up 7% among adults 18-49 over the early numbers for the June 4 Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals with the same two teams.

That 9 – 11:57 PM ET b-ball battle between the overtime winning Warriors and the Cavs ultimately scored a 6.9/25 rating and 17.8 million total viewers. As of now, last night’s game had 15.58 million viewers between 9 – 11 PM on ABC. Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game Night (2.9/12) and NBA Countdown (3.1/12) rose 7% and declined 13% respectively – and, like the game itself, they will likely see adjustments later too. Overall, ABC easily won the night with a 5.0/18 rating and 13.40 million viewers.

The non-NBA part of primetime saw the fourth and final season of the CW’s Beauty and the Beast (0.2/1) down a tenth from the Season 3 opener of June 11 last year at 8 PM – against the fourth game of the 2015 NBA Finals. Fox’s Bones (0.9/4) was even with last week while American Grit (0.7/2) rose two tenths.

CBS was all encores but NBC had a full night with the Season 1 finale of Strong (0.6/3) and a 2-hour Game of Silence (0.4/2). The former was down a tenth from its May 26 show while the latter dropped 33% in the key demo from its last original of May 19 – when, of course, it did not face the NBA Finals.

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