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Legendary Franchises Elevate Finals Viewership

2022 NBA Finals Draw 66.2M Total Household Viewers

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Broadcast
NBA
Published 
June 29, 2022
 | 
5
 min read

This year’s NBA Finals did not feature the top seed from either conference nor did they include anyone who finished among the top three vote-getters in the MVP race. Nevertheless, the series still provided a level of star power fans have grown accustomed to seeing on the biggest stage. The presence of former two-time league MVP Stephen Curry alongside Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in the playoffs together for the first time since 2019 was an enticing reason to tune in for the games. So, too, was the core of Boston Celtics players – including Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford – who had finally reached the championship round after falling tantalizingly short on multiple occasions in recent years. But the sum of each organization’s parts, as well as their fabled histories, rendered the 2022 NBA Finals appointment viewing for hoop heads. The Golden State Warriors eventually won the series in six games, celebrating their fourth championship in eight years at TD Garden on June 16. We used MVP’s broadcast platform to examine that game and each of the five preceding contests to explore viewership comparisons between games, hometown designated market areas, and even last year’s NBA Finals – which also needed six games to complete. In total, ABC drew 66.2 million household viewers throughout the 2022 NBA Finals, but there were considerable viewership swings as the series progressed.

Celtics, Warriors Make Broadcast Splash

For the 20th consecutive year, ABC carried the NBA Finals as part of its broadcast rights deal with the league. Each of the games was shown in primetime, and with only one exception, there were multiple days between games to allow time for rest, travel, and suspense to build. The series opened on Thursday, June 2, with 10.58 million viewers tuning in to watch Game 1 in San Francisco. And, although that night’s audience was lower than every ensuing game except Game 2, it would have been the third-most watched game during the 2021 championship series between Milwaukee and Phoenix. Overall, this year’s matchup generated a 9.16% year-over-year viewership increase to average 11.03 million fans per night, with each game drawing at least 10.3 million – 196,740 more than last year’s average. Only half of the games during the 2021 Finals had more than 10 million viewers, with a low mark of 9.15 million. Ultimately, both series peaked in the deciding Games 6, with the Warriors-Celtics matchup drawing 12.21 million and the Bucks-Suns pairing earning an audience of 11.66 million.

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Finishing the Fourth Strong

Throughout a series, all games are pivotal, but the bookends typically command heightened attention. As a result, we utilized our platform to evaluate minute-to-minute viewership for Games 1 and 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals. Golden State led the series opener for much of the first three quarters before Boston seized control in the fourth to earn a road win and take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven set. In Game 6, however, Golden State maintained its halftime lead to earn a road win of its own and clinch the championship. Both games were marked by steady audience growth – with similar declines at halftime – and viewership peaks during the fourth quarter. The competitiveness of the series lent itself to increased intensity and appealing game action. Game 1’s viewership peaked at 6.74 million toward the end as Boston was widening its lead and sealing victory, while Game 6’s climax was 8.07 million viewers as Golden State closed in on a title.

Notably, on a DMA level, each hometown market experienced late-game viewership functions that correlated with team success. In Game 1, the Boston market peaked late as San Francisco viewership declined steeply, dropping by 31.5% in the final 10 real-time minutes. The inverse was true for Game 6, as Boston’s viewership began to dip with 10 minutes remaining and San Francisco’s did not peak until only three minutes were left in the broadcast window. In that minute, 420,085 viewers were watching from the Bay Area – 72.8% of the market’s total viewership for the game.

Boston Fans Boost Broadcast Figures

NBA Finals history is littered with appearances by the Boston Celtics, who have now reached the postseason’s final round 22 times and emerged victorious in 17 of those. But this year’s return ended a 12-year drought that had left fans in Beantown hungry for the championship atmosphere. That their team was to face a foe that has won the Western Conference in six of the past eight seasons added fuel to the fandom fire. As a result, total television viewers in Massachusetts’s largest market numbered 587,200 per game. The highest individual game total occurred during Game 4 – a Friday night contest that Boston entered with a 2-1 series lead – when 619,946 fans in the region watched the NBA Finals on ABC. The only game that began with Golden State holding a series lead was Game 6, which, coincidentally, was the only game during which the San Francisco market eclipsed Boston in terms of viewers. As the Warriors won their 7th NBA championship – third among all franchises, behind only Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers – 577,432 fans watched from the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose market, increasing the area’s average for the series to 510,423.

Signing Off for the 2021-2022 Season

The NBA has become a year-round league, so while the Golden State Warriors players and fans are still celebrating a championship won less than two weeks ago, team executives across the association have zealously begun planning for next season. The 2022 NBA Draft is already in the rearview mirror, organizations may begin negotiating with free agents as soon as June 30, and Summer League begins before Independence Day. MVP will continue to monitor newsworthy NBA items throughout the offseason, but also be on the lookout for a brand value analysis from the recently concluded postseason in the coming days.

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