Ratings Roundup: ESPN Concludes NBA Finals With 12.4 Million Average Viewers During Game 6; NBC Sports Sees Most-Watched Final Round for East Coast U.S. Open in Eight Years
Ratings Roundup is a rundown of recent rating news and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, ESPN closes out 2022 NBA Finals averages 12,402,000 viewers in title-clinching Game 6 on ABC, NBC Sports delivers the most-watched final round for an East Coast U.S. Open since 2013, and more.
NBA Finals on ESPN and ABC
Viewership for the 2022 NBA Finals on ABC was up 22% from last year, according to Nielsen. The six-game series averaged 12,402,000 viewers, making it the most-watched NBA Finals in three years.
The Golden State Warriors victory in Game 6 generated an average of nearly 14 million viewers (13,992,000), up 10% from last year’s Game 6. The ABC broadcast peaked with 16,862,000 viewers at 11:15 p.m. ET. Game 6 viewership was 75% higher than its closest competition on television.
The 2022 NBA Finals on ABC delivered the highest share for the event in five years (since 2017). At an average of a 20.0 share, one in five viewers watching television on game nights were tuned into the NBA Finals on ABC.
Game 6 once again propelled ABC to win the night across all of television and in every key demographic, including M18-34, M18-49, M25-54, P18-34, P18-49 and P25-54. Furthermore, the six NBA Finals game broadcasts on ABC now rank as the six most-watched programs on television for June 2022.
Game 5 generated an average of 13,025,000 viewers as the Golden State Warriors took a 3-2 series lead against the Boston Celtics. The ABC broadcast was up 30% vs. last year’s Game 5, according to Nielsen.
Last night’s Game 5 peaked with 15,352,000 viewers at 11:15 p.m. ET and propelled ABC to win the night across all of television, including in every key demographic. The five most-watched programs of the month across all of television are each of the first five NBA Finals games.
Game 4 generated an average of 12.1 million viewers for Stephen Curry’s historic performance against the Boston Celtics on Friday. The ABC broadcast was up 15% vs. last year’s Game 4, according to Nielsen.
Friday’s Game 4 peaked with 15 million viewers and propelled ABC to win the night across all of television, including in every key demographic. The four most-watched programs of the month across all of television are each of the first four NBA Finals games.
Game 3 averaged 11,522,000 viewers and peaked with 13,245,000 viewers at 11:15 p.m. ET. The game was up 25% from Game 3 in 2021 and propelled ABC to win the night across all of television once again, including in every key demographic: M18-34, M18-49, M25-54, P18-34, P18-49 and P25-54.
Game 2 averaged nearly 12 million viewers (11,911,000) on ABC. It was up 24% from last year’s Game 2, according to Nielsen. The game’s audience peaked with 14,144,000 viewers at 9:45 p.m. ET. Due to the strength of Game 2, ABC once again won the night across all of television – broadcast and cable – and in every key demo, including P18-34, P18-49, P25-54, M18-34, M18-49 and M25-54.
Game 1 averaged nearly 12 million viewers (11,901,000) across ABC and ESPN2. It was up 37% from last year’s Game 1, according to Nielsen. The game peaked with nearly 13 million viewers (12,963,000) at 10:45 p.m. ET and was the most-watched NBA Finals Game 1 in three years. It also propelled ABC to win the night across all of television – broadcast and cable – and in every key demo, including P18-34, P18-49, P25-54, M18-34, M18-49 and M25-54.
The broadcast generated a 19.6 rating in the Boston market, making it the highest-rated NBA game in the market since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018. In the San Francisco market, Game 1 drew a 22.5 rating, making it the highest-rated NBA game in the market since Game 6 of the NBA Finals in 2019.
NBC Sports Delivers Most-Watched Final Round for East Coast U.S. Open Since 2013
NBC Sports’ presentation of the final round of the 2022 U.S. Open from The Country Club in Brookline, MA, on Sunday averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 5.41 million viewers – marking the most-watched final round of an East Coast U.S. Open since 2013 and up 65% from the prior East Coast-based U.S. Open (3.3 million, Winged Foot, 9/20/20). Sunday’s final round was also the most-watched sporting event of the weekend.
Sunday’s final round – which capped more than 45 hours of live championship coverage across NBC, Peacock, and USA Network – was highlighted by Matthew Fitzpatrick, Will Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler putting for the chance to win or tie for the lead on the 18th hole. Fitzpatrick secured his first major victory with a two-putt par after escaping a fairway bunker with his second shot.
Additional viewership highlights from NBC Sports’ 2022 U.S. Open coverage:
- Viewership of Sunday’s final round peaked at 9.2 million viewers from 6:30-6:45 p.m. ET on NBC, as Fitzpatrick, Zalatoris, and Scheffler played the final holes. The peak viewership is the highest for a U.S. Open played in the east since 2016.
- Led by Peacock, the 2022 U.S. Open is the most-streamed golf event in NBC Sports history, totaling 244 million minutes* for all four rounds, up 74% vs. last year’s U.S. Open. Sunday’s final round delivered an Average Minute Audience (AMA) of 148,000 viewers, nearly four times greater than both 2021 (Torrey Pines) and 2020 (Winged Foot).
- Saturday’s third-round coverage (Noon-8:03 p.m. ET) delivered a TAD of 3.6 million viewers across NBC and Peacock – up 16% from same round for the prior East Coast U.S. Open (3.1 million, Winged Foot, 9/19/20).
- Featuring live U.S. Open coverage for the first time, USA Network delivered a TAD of 1.08 million viewers for second-round coverage on Friday – marking the network’s best weekday afternoon viewership since 2017 (12/26/17), excluding holidays. On Thursday, live USA Network opening-round coverage averaged 854,000 viewers, which was the network’s most-watched weekday afternoon since the Beijing Olympics (before being exceeded by Friday’s coverage).
- The TV-only viewership and household rating for Sunday’s broadcast on NBC (Noon-6:52 p.m. ET) was 5.3 million viewers and a 2.9/12 rating. The 12 share is the best for a final round since 2013 (13 share).
- Post-final round Live From coverage on GOLF Channel averaged 176,000 viewers on Sunday – up 48% from comparable coverage last year.
Top metered markets include:
1. Boston: 5.3/19
2. West Palm Beach: 4.9/17
T4. Minneapolis: 4.1/19
T4. Providence: 4.1/14
6. Columbus: 3.8/16
T7. Phoenix: 3.7/15
T7. Hartford: 3.7/15
T7. Las Vegas: 3.7/15
10. Raleigh: 3.6/13
Yankees on YES Dominate in New York
YES’ position as the No. 1 TV sports destination in New York was buoyed by last weekend in which it boasted the No. 1 sports programs in New York on each of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, including its most-viewed weekend afternoon telecast in 10 years.
Furthermore, Monday night’s Yankees-Rays game was the most-viewed game on YES since July 2018, averaging 495,000 Total Viewers. The game peaked at 663,000 Total Viewers during the 10:00-10:15 pm quarter-hour. The game attracted more than 600,000 Total Viewers in each of four consecutive quarter-hours, from 9:30 to 10:30 pm, and was the most-viewed Primetime program overall in New York last night.
Monday night also marked the 12th game this season (out of 55 games) that a YES Yankees telecast averaged at least 400,000 Total Viewers; by comparison, YES only had nine such games in 128 total telecasts last season
Through June 20, YES’ Yankees games are averaging 335,000 Total Viewers per game, up 14% year-over-year (294,000 in 2021); YES is having its best season-to-date delivery since 2018.
- The game was YES’ most-viewed weekend afternoon Yankees telecast in 10 years, averaging 453,000 Total Viewers in the New York DMA
- The game was the most-viewed sports program in New York this past weekend, notching more viewers than the second, third and fourth rounds of the U.S. Open combined, the Primetime Game Two of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals and all other sports programming
- It was, up to that time, YES’ most-viewed Yankees telecast of the 2022 season (since surpassed by Monday night’s game)
- Sunday’s game was the second most-viewed program on all of television this past weekend in the New York DMA, trailing only 60 Minutes
- The game was YES’ most-viewed Father’s Day game in 13 years, and the second most-viewed locally produced Father’s Day game ever on a New York RSN (behind only YES’ June 21, 2009 Yankees-Marlins telecast which averaged 454,000 Total Viewers)
Additional Weekend Highlights:
- Last Friday’s Yankees-Rays game averaged 400,000 Total Viewers on YES, making it the #1 Primetime program in the entire New York DMA that night
- YES’ Yankees telecasts Friday, Saturday and Sunday were the #1 sports programs in New York on each of those respective days
About Monday Night:
- Monday night’s Yankees-Rays game was the most-viewed game on YES since 2018, averaging 495,000 Total Viewers. The game peaked at 663,000 Total Viewers during the 10:00-10:15 pm quarter-hour. The game attracted more than 600,000 Total Viewers in each of four consecutive quarter-hours, from 9:30 to 10:30 pm.
‘Tis The Season:
- Through June 20, YES’ Yankees games are averaging 335,000 Total Viewers per game, up 14% year-over-year (294,000 in 2021); YES is having its best season-to-date delivery since 2018.
- Counting Monday night’s game, YES’ Yankees games accounted for five of the top nine most-viewed English-Language Primetime programs in the New York DMA over the last seven nights
NTT INDYCAR Series Viewership Is Off to Best Start Since 2017 Across NBC Sports
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is averaging a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 1.721 million viewers across NBC Sports platforms (NBC, Peacock, USA Network) this season, making it the most-watched start to a season through the first eight races since 2017 (1.760 million; ABC/NBCSN). The beginning of the 2022 season is also up 5% vs. last year’s comparable coverage (1.634 million; NBC/NBCSN).
Bolstered by streaming on Peacock, 2022 ranks as the most-streamed INDYCAR season on record with an Average Minute Audience (AMA) of 60,900 viewers. Last month’s 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 was the most-streamed INDYCAR race ever with an AMA of 218,800 viewers. The AMA also includes streaming on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app via authentication.
Sunday’s Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America averaged a TAD of 1.110 million viewers on NBC and Peacock, making it the most-watched edition of the race since 2019 (1.110 million; NBC).
Viewership for Josef Newgarden’s third win of the season last Sunday peaked with a TV-only audience of 1.279 million viewers and averaged a household rating of 0.69. TAD is based on data from Nielsen and Adobe Analytics.
Fox Sports Concludes Coverage of 2022 NASCAR Season
An average of 3,696,000 viewers watched NASCAR Cup Series racing on Fox and FS1 during the Fox Sports’ portion of the 2022 season, which concluded Sunday, June 12 at Sonoma Raceway.
The network experienced an increased average viewership +6% over the 2021 FOX NASCAR season across 14 NASCAR Cup Series points races. The 2022 NASCAR Cup Season was the second most-streamed season all-time with an average minute audience of 25,714. It was also the second most-streamed FOX NASCAR season all-time.
NASCAR Race Hub averaged 131,000 viewers and was up +32% over 2021.
A week earlier, 2,502,000 viewers watched Joey Logano win the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at WWT Raceway at Gateway on FS1. It was the most-watched cable telecast of the day. At the time, FOX/FS1 was averaging 3,784,000 viewers and was up +7% over 2021.
Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on FS1 from Gateway scored 663,000 viewers, up +75% from last year’s Gateway race and up +84% from the same weekend in 2019.
The inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series race from Portland tallied 824,000 viewers on FS1, up +14% from the Mid-Ohio race that ran on the same weekend last year.
ESPN Scores Big in May, Biggest Total-Day Audience for the Month in Seven Years
ESPN scored its strongest viewership in May in seven years, thanks to big increases in the audiences for the NBA, NCAA Softball, the PGA Championship and Formula One; SportsCenter throughout the day; and the entire lineup of weekday studio shows, plus the return of the NHL to ESPN with an extensive playoff schedule.
Overall, ESPN averaged 742K viewers (P2+) on a 24-hour basis, up 34% from May 2021. It was ESPN’s highest average for May since 2015. The increase in prime time was even more pronounced – an average of 2.17M viewers, a stunning increase of 76% vs. last year to the network’s highest mark since 2018.
In May (April 24 – May 28), ESPN led all cable networks in total day viewership among persons 18-49.
Live Event Highlights
The NBA on ESPN attracted an average audience in May of 5.55M viewers (13 games, all playoffs), more than three times (up 204%) bigger than a year ago (25 games, 18 regular-season and seven playoffs). The month concluded with the most-watched game in this year’s playoffs on any network – Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston defeating Miami, with an average audience of 9.87M fans. It was ESPN’s best NBA audience since 2018 and was the most-viewed telecast on cable since the NCAA Tournament.
ESPN’s first NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2005 provided a big boost to the month. The 27 post-season contests (16 first round, 11 second round) averaged 1.2M viewers, up 81% vs the 25 games in May a year ago on NBCSN (23 first round, two second round).
The NCAA Softball slate of nine contests (two regular season, seven post season) was the strongest for the month on ESPN since 2015. The average of 636K viewers was up 18% over 2021 (10 games; two regular season, eight post season). Of note, the Texas vs. Arkansas matchup on May 28 broke the record for viewership in the Regionals/Super Regionals round for any ESPN network, an average of just over one million people.
ESPN’s coverage of the first two rounds of the PGA Championship garnered tremendous viewership for each six-hour window. Thursday’s audience of 1.5M fans was 23% larger than a year ago and the biggest on any network for that round in 20 years – since 2002. Friday’s second round averaged 2.1M viewers, a record for ESPN – which added the golf Major in 2020 after a 30-year absence – and the best on any network since 2009. In addition, the new alternate telecast featuring Joe Buck and Michael Collins averaged 684K and 691K the two days for its first hour on ESPN. That represents increases of 80% and 88%, respectively, when compared to the same hour preceding the primary telecast on ESPN before the 2021 event.
Formula One continued its spectacular growth across ESPN’s networks in May. The inaugural Grand Prix of Miami on ABC attracted the biggest audience in U.S. television history for a live F1 race – 2.6M viewers. The Grand Prix of Spain on ESPN2 was up 32% from last year on ESPN to an event-record on cable (and a record for live coverage) average of 1.1M viewers. For seven races this year to date (five on ESPN), the series is averaging 1.4M persons. That is an increase of 45% from the same point a year ago, the most-watched campaign in F1 history on U.S. television. The sport’s rising popularity is not limited to the races. ESPN attracted an audience of 953K viewers for qualifying at the Grand Prix of Miami on May 7, ESPN’s largest viewership for a regular qualifying telecast since F1 returned to the network in 2018.
SportsCenter and Weekday Studio Shows
Every edition of SportsCenter increased its audience over 2021 (except the 1 a.m. show), led by the midnight show growing 83%. Also, numerous editions posted their best May in years and/or their best month since January.
- The 11 p.m. edition averaged 654K people, its highest since 2017 and up 44% from 2021.
- The 7 a.m., noon, 6 p.m., midnight and weekend morning shows all posted their best May since 2019.
- The audience of 3.6M for the May 29 edition of SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt that followed Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals was the biggest for any
- SportsCenter with Van Pelt in nearly 18 months – since January 1, 2021 (4.5M following the College Football Playoff Semifinals). It also was the biggest audience for any SportsCenter since Jan. 10, 2022 (3.8M following the College Football Playoff National Championship.)
- The 7 a.m., 11 p.m., midnight and 1 a.m. editions all enjoyed their strongest month since January.
In addition, ESPN’s entire weekday lineup of studio shows eclipsed their performance of May a year ago by healthy margins:
- ESPN’s weekday morning duo – Get Up and First Take – each recorded their best month of May ever and were up 9% and 31%, respectively.
- In midday afternoons, This Just In was up 27%, NBA Today was up 59% and NFL Live was up 11%. For the latter, it was the best May since 2016. (Comparisons to 2021 for TJI and NBA Today are to the equivalent time slot.)
- The longtime pairing of Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption from 5-6 p.m. had their best May since 2019 with increases of 17% and 11%, respectively.