Ratings Roundup: NBA Finals Game 1 Highest Rated in ABC History, NBC’s NHL Final Fails to Impress

Compiled by Jason Dachman, Managing Editor, SVG

NBA playoff ratings continue to skyrocket, as Game 1 of the NBA Finals was the highest-rated, most-viewed Game 1 in ABC history. The Thunder’s victory over the Heat generated a 9.9 household rating, 16.195 million viewers (P2+) and 11.318 million household impressions, surpassing the previous marks set for Game 1 of the 2004 Finals (Detroit Pistons at Los Angeles Lakers), which posted a 9.8 rating, 15.352 million viewers and 10.634 million households. ABC also won the night in all key demos. Compared to last year’s Game 1 (Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks) the 9.9 rating is up 10% from a 9.0 and the 16.195 million viewers are up 7% from 15.171 million. The game also generated an average minute audience of 99,199 via WatchESPN and ESPN on Xbox LIVE (Adobe/Omniture).

Even before the record-breaking Game 1, ESPN had already notched its highest-rated, most-viewed NBA Playoffs ever. In 21 games leading into the Finals, ESPN averaged a 4.5 household coverage rating and 6.23 million viewers, both up 25% compared to last year’s 3.6 and 4.975 million. The playoff push was lead by the Eastern Conference Finals, which delivered the network’s highest-rated, most-viewed NBA series ever. It averaged a 6.2 US household rating, matching the highest-rated Conference Finals ever on cable and up 44% over last year’s Western Conference Finals (4.3), and 10.14 million viewers (P2+), up 46% from 2011 (6.94 million). Game 7 of the series ranked as the highest rated and most watched NBA game ever on cable, notching a 7.7 US rating and 13.35 million viewers

The Thunder/Spurs Western Conference Finals averaged a 5.0 U.S. rating and 7.823 million viewers on TNT. Overall, TNT’s NBA Playoffs coverage averaged a 3.1 U.S. rating and 4.812 million viewers on TNT, down 11% in ratings and 13% in viewership from last year (3.5, 5.534M), but still ranking as the second most-viewed ever on TNT…

…After an extremely successful run up to the Stanley Cup Final, NBC Sports Group thoroughly bottomed out, as the six-game Kings-Devils series was the lowest rated and least-viewed Stanley Cup Final since 2007. The series averaged a 1.8 U.S. rating and 3.01 million viewers on NBC and NBC Sports Network, down 33% in ratings and 34% in viewership from last year’s seven-game Bruins/Canucks series (2.7, 4.6M). Every game of the series was the least-viewed since at least 2007.

However, the three rounds leading up to the Final were a different story, averaging 1.09 million viewers on NBC, NBC Sports Network & CNBC, the most-watched in 15 years (1.237 on FOX/ESPN/ESPN2 in 1997). For the entire playoffs, NBC Sports Network averaged 1.030 million viewers, the highest audience for a single cable network since 2002 (ESPN; 1.295 million viewers). For the entire playoffs, NBC and NBC Sports Network combined to average 1.403 million viewers, up four% vs. last year (1.355 million)…

…NBC had better luck at the track than on the ice, as Viewership for the Belmont Stakes soared, despite the scratch of Triple Crown-hopeful I’ll Have Another. The race was up 12% over last year and 62% over 2010. Saturday’s viewership is the highest for a non-Triple Crown Belmont since 2005 on NBC, and the second-best for a non-Triple Crown Belmont on record (Nielsen records date back to 1988).

The race portion of the Belmont (6:13-6:58 p.m. ET) registered a 4.8/11 national household rating, 12% higher than last year’s 4.3/10 on NBC and 60% higher than the 2010 Belmont (3.0/7 on ABC). The pre-race (5-6:13) drew 4.35 million viewers, up 27% over last year (3.43 million on NBC) and up 129% from the 2010 pre-race on ABC (1.90 million).

The three Triple Crown races on NBC (Kentucky Derby – 14.83 million, Preakness – 8.08 million and Belmont – 7.67 million) averaged 10.34 million viewers, up 2% from last year’s three races (10.12 million), making it the best average for a non-Triple Crown year since 2005 (10.40 million), and the second-best for a non-Triple Crown on record. This year’s Triple Crown coverage topped 1997 (8.75 million), 1998 (8.06 million), 1999 (8.05 million) on ABC when a Triple Crown was at stake in the Belmont…

…UEFA EURO 2012 has been a hit for ESPN thus far, as the English-language presentation of the first six matches averaged 1.328 million viewers – up 214% over 2008 (423,000 viewers).  The coverage was highlighted by last Sunday’s Italy- Spain opening match, which averaged 2.113 million viewers, bigger than any EURO 2008 match except the final on ABC (Germany-Spain, 3.760 million viewers).

ESPN Deportes also posted solid numbers for the first six matches, averaging a 3.2 Hispanic household coverage rating (+66% from 2008) with 166,000 Hispanic households (+147% from 2008). The Spain-Italy opener was the highest-rated and most-watched match so far, delivering a 6.0 Hispanic household coverage rating with 313,600 household impressions.

As for the streaming side of things, ESPN3 and WatchESPN generated 65.8 million minutes to both the English and Spanish language feeds across computers, smartphones, tablets and Xbox.  On computers alone, it generated an average minute audience of 80,000 and an average of nearly 231,852 daily unique viewers that logged a total of 57.5 million minutes to all six EURO 2012 matches…

Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Pocono 400 drew a 3.2 U.S. rating and 5.257 million viewers on TNT Sunday afternoon, up 3% in ratings and 2% in viewership from last year (3.1, 5.175M), and up 3% in both measures compared to 2010 (3.1, 5.097M). This marks the most-viewed edition of the race in three years (5.480M).

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