Viewers are watching the NBA more this year than they have in years, even surpassing pre-pandemic numbers now.
And the Phoenix Suns are a good draw again. Despite the low-draw opponent and the difficult time slot as the last of eight games at 9:00PM on Easter Sunday evening, the Valley Boyz finished 4th in weekend ratings.
NBA delivers most-viewed opening playoff weekend in more than a decade. pic.twitter.com/ePLYH8T49J— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) April 19, 2022
While the midday Nets-Celtics game was obviously the biggest draw, the Suns were part of an overall weekend that drew more viewers than any opening weekend in 11 years.
Sunday’s Celtics-Nets was a ratings bonanza, biggest individual game draw in 20 years, far outpacing the Suns-Lakers in the same time slot of a year ago.
The opening weekend of the NBA Playoffs averaged 4.05 million viewers across ABC, ESPN and TNT, the largest audience for the first weekend of play since 2011. Viewership jumped 37% from last year, when the playoffs began in late May (2.95M), and 41% from 2019, the previous postseason to begin in April (2.88M). There was no opening weekend two years ago, when the postseason began on a Monday in August.
Sunday’s Nets-Celtics Game 1 led the way with a 3.1 rating and 6.90 million viewers on ABC, the most-watched opening weekend game in 20 years (2002 Trail Blazers-Lakers: 8.37M) and the most-watched first round game overall in six (2016 Warriors-Rockets: 7.24M).
Overall, the ratings for Suns-Pelicans on TNT came in 4th overall, which is actually great news since it was in the worst Sunday time slot and included a Pelicans team barely shown this year.
In second place, Bucks-Bulls came in just ahead of Suns-Pelicans in their earlier-evening TNT slot, with Warriors-Nuggets in ABC’s prime Saturday evening slot slipping right in between those two.
Ranking second for the weekend, Bucks-Bulls averaged a 2.2 and 4.77 million on TNT Sunday night — the largest opening round playoff audience on cable since 2018 (Cavaliers-Pacers Game 4: 6.07M). Ratings jumped 34% and viewership as much as 59% from Hawks-Knicks last year (1.7, 3.00M*) and 39% and 79% respectively from Pistons-Bucks in 2019 (1.6, 2.66M).
In fact, Suns-Pelicans (2.0 share) was a big boost over the same time slot a year ago, and nearly matched the Suns-Lakers opener a year ago in that perfect ABC afternoon slot.
Bookending the Sunday schedule, Pelicans-Suns drew a 2.0 (+25%) and 4.02 million (+47%)* and Hawks-Heat a 1.3 (+18%) and 2.67 million (+37%),*
Sportsmediawatch.com notes that Easter weekend is historically a low numbers weekend for the NBA, so the big boost in ratings and viewership is highly encouraging.
Let’s see how the rest of the playoffs unfolds.