Social media has been an endless parade of complaints about how boring the NBA Finals and NBA Playoffs have been. However, ESPN reported a seven percent increase in its NBA Finals Game 2 viewership.
Despite the growing narrative that the NBA Finals have been boring, ESPN reported a seven percent increase in NBA Finals Game 2 viewing. The numbers were a 12.7 metered market rating, compared to a rating of 11.9 for Game 2 in 2016. The game also set streaming records for an NBA Finals Game 2: “Game 2 drew an average minute audience of 435,800 viewers, 1,774,600 unique viewers and 71,030,300 total minutes streamed”.
These numbers may not seem significant in a vacuum. A slight increase could be expected for the NBA Finals given the rising popularity of the league. However, when looked at in addition to the narrative that the league’s marquee event hasn’t been interesting thus far, these numbers are a fascinating tale of the NBA fan psyche.
The increased viewership could tell us a few different things about NBA fans in general. If they care at all about the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers being competitive, it doesn’t impact tuning in. This also backs a long-thought hypothesis that the NBA is a star driven league. Two of the three lowest watched NBA Finals series in the last 10 years have involved the San Antonio Spurs. While the Spurs had stars, they didn’t have the swashbuckling playing style or personalities of the Warriors. They also didn’t have a polarizing superstar like LeBron James.
NBA fans may care about league-wide parity and the competitiveness of the NBA Finals in a vacuum. But what is clear, is that it will not impact the average NBA fan from tuning in to watch. This is great news for ESPN and the NBA, because based on the first two games, it may not be competitive.