NBA Finals Game 1 Scores 17.4M Viewers As Warriors Win In OT, Steady With 2017

Warriors Cavaliers Game 1
Associated Press

UPDATED, 12:03 PM: There are a lot of stats and numbers-crunching that came of last night Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals, but there are really only two that matter. First is the score, as the defending champion Golden State Warriors beat 2016 champs the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-114 in overtime to kick off the teams’ fourth consecutive Finals meeting. Second is the viewership, which is a lot like 2017.


Nearly 17.4 million tuned in on ABC watch the teams battle it out Thursday in the Bay Area. That’s a dip of 7% from the first game of the 2017 NBA Finals on June 1 last year. Revealing that drama is something that does well for the NBA, last night’s game peaked at 21.7 million sets of eyeballs in the 11:15-11:45 PM ET slot as the Cavs and Warriors went into OT.

Among adult 18-49, the primetime game had a 6.3 rating, a good jump up from the 5.1 of this morning’s fast affiliates.

If past NBA Finals like last year are an indication, expect all those numbers to grow for Game 2 — which this year is on Sunday and also a Warriors home game.

PREVIOUSLY, 7:14 AM: If last night’s 124 -114 Game 1 win in overtime by the Golden State Warriors over the Cleveland Cavaliers is any indication, we’re  in for one hell of an NBA Finals.

Scuffles, suspensions, some arguable calls by the refs, some very bad math by the Cavs’ J.R. Smith at the end of regulation, an historic 51-point game by LeBron James alone, 29 points from Steph Curry and the very apparent determination of two teams meeting for their fourth consecutive finals proved everything was going to be left out on the court.

All of which added up to some strong ratings result for ABC and the NBA coming off the previous stages of a playoffs that has seen double digit upticks over last year already.

Scoring a 12.3 in metered market results, Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals was basically even with Game 1 of the 2017 match-up. That Warriors winning face-off with LeBron and crew at Oracle Arena on June 1 last year went on to garner 18.7 million viewers, which turned out to be the lowest viewership of a hard fought five game series eventually won by the Warriors 4-1. In context, this virtual match with 2017 comes in an environment when almost everyone and everything (I’m talking to you NFL) is down year to year in the ratings.

Interestingly and perhaps very telling of where this NBA Finals could go, the 14.9 ratings peak of last night’s Game 1 was up 7% from the best that last year’s Game 1 did in the 10:15 – 10:30 time period. That peak last night came in both the 11:15 – 11:30 and 11:30 – 11:45 time periods as the tied game went into OT. Having its best night since the Oscars earlier this year, ABC obviously cleaned up on broadcast and cable.

Now in its fourth season, so to speak, the GSW vs. Cavs Season 4 debut was down just 6% from the all-time Game 1 high of the 2016 opener in the early metrics. However, last night’s peak rating actually also topped the best that June 2, 2016 game achieved – a rare bit of ratings history in the making.

Unlike last year’s Finals opener, the NBA and ABC faced nothing but encores from the rest of the Big 4 last night. Up the cable dial, another type of competition was fierce as the primetime Scripps National Spelling Bee on ESPN saw Texas’ own Karthik Nemmani win with his correct recital of “koinonia.”

Now with one win on their sheet, the Warriors will be feeding off another homecourt advantage for Game 2 on Sunday. Let’s see what Lebron has to say about that – last night there was a Mad Man and an Avenger in the Warriors’ house.

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