Ratings Roundup: ABC on Pace For Best NBA Finals Ever; Primetime U.S. Open Delivers for NBC

Compiled by Jason Dachman, Managing Editor, SVG

ESPN/ABC has continued to ride its NBA ratings hot streak into the Finals, as the Heat-Thunder series is on pace to be the most-watched Finals ever on ABC. Through three games, ABC’s coverage has averaged 16.099 million viewers (P2+), according to Fast Nationals from Nielsen.  Additionally, the series to date is up 7% in household rating (9.7 vs. 9.1) and 5% in viewership (16.099 million vs. 15.345 million) compared to last year’s three-game averages. The 9.7 three-game average is the highest since 2004.

However, Game 3 of the Finals did suffer from a direct matchup with NBC’s coverage, drawing an 8.8 final rating and 15.452 million viewers on ABC Sunday night, down 3% in ratings and up 1% in viewership from Heat/Mavericks Game 3 last year (9.1, 15.338M). The 8.8 rating for Sunday’s game is the lowest for any NBA Finals game since Celtics/Lakers Game 1 in 2010 (8.6), and the lowest for a Game 3 since Lakers/Magic Game 3 in 2009 (8.6). Games 1 and 2 drew ratings of 9.9 and 10.4, respectively, and each topped sixteen million viewers.

ESPN3 logged an average minute audience of 91,721 across computers, smartphones, and tablets via WatchESPN and on Xbox LIVE. Across all platforms on ESPN3, Game 3 generated 321,000 unique viewers and 16.1 million minutes, up 26% and 19%, respectively, compared to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals…

…Despite going head-tohead with the NBA Finals in primetime on Sunday, NBC’s coverage of the final round of the U.S. Open drew in big audiences. NBC’s final-round coverage earned a 6.6/13 overnight rating/share, up 29% from last year, when the tournament took place on the East Coast and ended earlier. However, the telecast was down from the previous two primetime West Coast Opens (8.5/18 in 2008 and 6.9/15 in 2010).

The network’s third-round primetime coverage on Saturday also fared well, scoring a 5.5/13 overnight rating/share and a 13, which was up 53% over last year and the best in a decade (2002, 6.4/16). The third round was up 4% and 22%, respectively, over the previous two West Coast Opens Torrey Pines in 2008 (5.3) and Pebble Beach in 2010 (4.5).

NBC’s coverage of Round One (2.1/6) was up 50% vs. last year’s and the best in six years (2006, also a 2.1); and Round Two (2.3/7) was up 64% vs. 2011 and the best since 2008 (2.4)…

..Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race from Michigan drew a 3.1 overnight rating on TNT Sunday afternoon, up 15% from last year (2.7). The race marked the first time in four years that Dale Earnhardt Jr. won a Sprint Cup race. Despite the increase, the 3.1 is the lowest of the season for any NASCAR Sprint Cup race, and marks a slight drop from a 3.2 for the previous week’s Pocono 400…

…Going up against the U.S. Open on Saturday Night, Fox’s Baseball Night in American featuring Red Sox/Cubs in 39% of markets drew a 2.3 overnight rating on FOX Saturday night — up 35% from afternoon action featuring Cubs/Phillies last year (1.7), but tied as the lowest ever for a primetime, regular season Major League Baseball telecast on FOX (12 telecasts).