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Nuggets Get Last Laugh During 2023 NBA Campaign

NBA Finals Draw 52.7M Total Viewers, Denver DMA Earns Largest Share

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Social Media
July 20, 2023
July 20, 2023
 min read

The 2023 NBA Finals were marked with storylines of opposing nature. The Denver Nuggets arrived on basketball’s grandest stage after a regular season during which they had the Western Conference’s best record and a trio of playoff series where they were hardly tested, including a four-game sweep over the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Their foe, the Miami Heat, snuck into the playoffs as an eight seed – having dropped their opening play-in game at home with a listless effort late in that loss – and went on to upset the Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, and Boston Celtics in succession. With such stark contrasts between the finalists, we endeavored to determine how each team both affected fan interest and was ultimately impacted by it during the postseason. We used MVP’s omnichannel platform to reveal overall and DMA viewership figures during each stage of the playoffs while also comparing social metrics between the teams as an extension of our previous NBA postseason analysis. Despite their disparate journeys to the 2023 NBA Finals, fan interest was evident as the series began on June 1. That night, 11 million household viewers watched the championship series commence, representing a 4% increase from last year’s Game 1 between Boston and the Golden State Warriors.

Finals Bookends Netted Top Audiences

Unsurprisingly, as the postseason progressed, average national viewership grew for both the Nuggets and Heat. The Nuggets, led by two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, won the Western Conference for the first time in franchise history while the Heat became NBA Finals participants for the sixth time in 13 years. But as the Nuggets made quick work of their opponent in a relatively uncompetitive series, audience metrics could not sustain their Game 1 momentum.

NBA Finals: Viewership peaked in Game 5 as Denver won its first NBA championship with 11.5 million total fans watching ABC’s broadcast. While that figure was higher than Game 5 achieved in the 2022 NBA Finals, it fell short of last year’s closeout Game 6 by 6.1%. But outside of the series bookends, this year’s championship round failed to match last year’s interest, with Games 2-4 each drawing fewer viewers than the corresponding games in the Boston/Golden State series. As a result, the 2023 Finals averaged 10.54 million viewers per game – a 4% year-over-year decline.

Finalists’ Paths: Both teams noticed steady viewership increases after each round of the playoffs.

• Denver’s first-round games against Minnesota averaged 2.65 million household viewers, outpacing Miami’s average for games against Milwaukee by 26.6%. Notably, Miami’s average was affected by playing two games on NBATV, each of which drew fewer than 600,000 viewers.

• Miami then edged Denver’s audiences by 14.3% during the conference semifinals, as its series against New York drew 4.93 million broadcast viewers per game.

• Expectedly, both teams enjoyed their largest pre-Finals audiences in the Conference Finals. Denver’s four-game series against the Los Angeles Lakers averaged 6.37 million fans. Of note, the Nuggets’ overall figure was boosted by 8.47 viewers million for Game 3, which was broadcast on ABC rather than ESPN. Miami’s seven-game set against Boston averaged 5.55 million viewers, with each game airing on TNT.

What This Means: MVP’s overall viewership metrics suggest expectations and competitiveness are key elements for driving broadcast interest in the NBA. These were affirmed by both Miami’s low audience totals early in the playoffs as well as a drop-off once the Nuggets had a firm grasp on the title series. Furthermore, historical franchises still seem to curry favor with national audiences. Despite being on the losing end of the Conference Finals, Boston and LA helped create a round-over-round spike in viewership for each of their opponents. Compounding this assertion was a higher audience average in the 2022 NBA Finals than this year’s championship.

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Denver’s Interest Spiked in June

The Mile High City has been no stranger to championships of late, having witnessed the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 in 2016 and the Avalanche lift the Stanley Cup last summer. But an NBA title had been ever elusive for the Denver Nuggets, who had never so much as played a Finals game before this season. So when victory seemed within reach, local broadcast numbers soared.

Finals Markets: After averaging 138,453 viewers during the Western Conference Finals, the Denver DMA was responsible for an audience of 355,491 per game during the championship round. The latter figure represented 19.8% of total households in the market, which was the largest share among all DMAs we analyzed. Denver’s audience peaked at 431,087 – or 24% of the potential market total – during Game 5 of the series. In terms of overall viewership, Denver outpaced the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market by 58.2%. In that South Florida region, NBA Finals games averaged a 13.3% share of total potential household viewers – an uptick from 9.8% a round earlier.

During the Conference Finals, both teams’ home markets paled in comparison to the shares achieved by their counterparts’ home markets for the round.

• Boston averaged 401,131 viewers throughout the seven-game Eastern Conference Finals for an average market share of 16.2%

• Los Angeles drew 782,187 viewers per Western Conference Finals game for a 13.6% market share despite the Lakers being swept

National Markets: Overall, the top three markets in terms of raw viewership for the NBA Finals were Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, respectively.

• The City of Angels was responsible for 841,538 viewers per game and exceeded 900,000 for Game 5

• LA’s market share of 14.7% as well as Chicago’s market share of 11.9% both surpassed Miami-Fort Lauderdale’s figure

• New York finished second in our average audience rankings with 718,057 for a 9.6% market share

What This Means: It is not uncommon for markets with title contenders to experience a spike in local viewership, as Denver enjoyed this season. However, potential partners can expect not only larger audiences but also larger market shares by allocating their sponsorship spend in areas with traditional NBA franchises. Buying space in these regions promises consistent value without relying on a championship run.

Championships Create New Fans

While lifelong Denver Nuggets fans revel in the glee and relief of finally scaling the NBA mountain for the franchise’s first championship, a new generation of fans is simultaneously basking in the glory and creating lifelong bonds with the team. Social media is partly responsible for stoking such emotions and excitement, and the Nuggets took advantage of their growth opportunity throughout the postseason.

In-Series Content: MVP’s social analysis prior to the Finals revealed consistent growth in post values and engagements for both Denver and Miami during each round of the Western Conference playoffs. Our NBA Finals social analysis spanned June 1-13 – from Game 1 through a day following the series finale – which was three fewer days than the period we analyzed during the Conference Finals round.  As a result, the Nuggets’ post value generation dipped by 8.8% to $3.25M. However:

• Their daily post value average increased by 12.2% to $249,867

• And, importantly, their overall engagements increased by 14% to 10.16 million

• Denver finished the period with 210.4M total impressions from 915 posts

On the other hand, Miami’s social performance declined sharply round-over-round in each metric.

• Post value dipped by 57.2% to $2.74M

• Engagements fell by 50.7% to 6.9 million

• Impressions dropped by 57.2% to 144.8 million

• In addition to waning interest being responsible for the declines, the Heat shared 35.8% less content during the NBA Finals than it did during the Eastern Conference Finals

Social Growth: An indicator of untapped market potential on social media is revealed through follower growth. And during the 2023 NBA playoffs, the Nuggets exposed a budding basketball hotbed in Denver. Each NBA finalist added to its social following during the playoffs, but the Nuggets did so at a much faster rate.


o Added 355.7K Instagram followers – an increase of 18% – from April 15 through June 13

o Boosted its overall social following across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter by 9.2% during the playoffs


o Increased its IG following by 7.1% during the playoffs

o Twitter growth was flat during the NBA Finals

o Overall social growth reached 2% during the playoffs, but only 0.5% during the Finals

Social Growth is Critical for New NBA Powers

The kings of the 2023 NBA Playoffs were the Denver Nuggets, and local interest surged accordingly. But social values and viewership shares for historical powers and their home markets proved traditional franchises still reign supreme overall. Nevertheless, the media landscape provides myriad opportunities for growing fan bases such as that in Denver, and social is often the quickest route to adding value and reaching targeted audiences. Connect with MVP ahead of the 2023-24 season to learn strategies for maximizing your social sponsorship spend while also discovering ways to broaden your broadcast visibility irrespective of deep postseason runs.

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