ABC's Tuesday night broadcast of the Lakers' first win of the NBA Finals generated a preliminary 9.2 rating and drew about 14.5 million viewers, the network said Wednesday. Early ratings data for the third game of the series with the Boston Celtics showed a 44% jump over the third game of last year's San Antonio-Cleveland broadcast.
Tuesday night's game was ABC's highest-rated and most-watched NBA Finals broadcast since Game 3 of the 2004 Finals, when the Lakers played the Pistons in Detroit. Ratings for Tuesday night's game were noticeably higher than any game during last year's lackluster series, but they fell short of the third Finals broadcast in 2004 that drew a 10.5 rating and 16.2 million average viewers.
Nonetheless, ABC credited the ratings boost from the Lakers' 87-81 victory with helping it to "win the night" among all television networks -- including the 18-to-49-year-old males who remain a top demographic for advertisers.
Through three broadcasts, the NBA Finals are averaging 13.8 million viewers, which is a 52% increase over the same period last year. Tuesday's Game 3 scored a 28.6 household rating in L.A. and a 23.3 rating in Boston.
Adam Silver, the NBA's deputy commissioner and chief operating officer, described ABC's Finals ratings as healthy given the decrease in prime-time viewers since 2004. But he also said that the NBA is delivering consumers to its advertisers and sponsors through the Internet and mobile devices.
"Even if you stick just to television, ABC is handily winning the night, which is the most important measure in broadcast television," Silver said. "And if you compared today's NBA TV ratings to 2004, they're winning with a margin that's greater than it was in 2004."
The NBA's media rights contracts give its television partners rights to push game highlights and other content onto the Internet and constantly evolving mobile devices. "Over time, that's going to continue chopping away at ratings on conventional network TV," Silver said.
ESPN on Wednesday said that its online NBA section drew about 5.6 million page views on Tuesday night, or a 67% increase over last year's third game. ESPN's NBA section has averaged 5 million page views, or a 79% increase, over the first three contests.
The NBA also is benefiting from increased fan interest in Asia, Europe and Latin America, where, despite time zone differences, the league is tracking increased television ratings and growth in the number of fans who are tracking NBA action online.
"We clearly need a new metric other than the conventional Nielsen rating," Silver said.