Quantcast 2011 NBA Playoffs: NBA Playoffs TV Ratings


TV ratings soar as fresh teams breathe life into NBA playoffs


The NBA playoffs have been full of intrigue, excitement, and juicy storylines this year, and apparently fans are tuning in to see it all.

The first round of the 2011 playoffs drew an average of 4.15 million viewers across ABC, ESPN, and TNT. That is up from around 3.2 million viewers from last season’s first-round action. ESPN’s first-round ratings were the best the network has seen since it began televising NBA playoff games in 2003, while ABC’s ratings were the best for the network since 2004.

Meanwhile, TNT has been pulling in record numbers of viewers, with Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat on May 15 seeing 11.1 million viewers and earning a 6.2 overall household share, making it the most-watched basketball game in cable television history. Game 2 between the Bulls and Heat on May 18 had 10 million viewers and bested the primetime viewership of ABC, NBC, and CBS. (American Idol on Fox still fared better with 24.36 million viewers.)

So why the major spike in viewership this year?




A number of factors could be contributors, from people tuning in out of morbid curiosity just to see what the Heat do to the fact that five major TV markets were represented in this year’s playoff field (Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago). However, it is also pretty evident that this year’s playoffs have had an excitement not associated with the postseason for quite some time, and that likely has to do with the teams involved.

For years, the NBA playoffs would feature 16 teams, of which about 13 or so were destined to go home, leaving the other three to duke it out for the title. Between the Lakers, Celtics, and San Antonio Spurs, they won 10 of the last 12 NBA titles since Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls in 1998 (Detroit and Miami were the others). This lack of parity in the NBA led to a growing sense of apathy amongst fans towards the postseason. After all, it is difficult for fans to root for a team that is not their own when that team seemingly wins every year.

But this year is different. San Antonio fell in the first round to the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies, while Los Angeles and Boston were both ousted in the conference semifinals. For the first time since 2006, the NBA will have a champion outside of those three teams, and NBA fans are voicing their approval with soaring TV ratings.

Will Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd finally win a ring? Can Kevin Durant take the final step towards superstar status and lead the young Oklahoma City Thunder to a title? Will LeBron James and company make good on their promise of winning a championship? Can Derrick Rose bring Chicago its first title since Jordan retired?

These are fresh questions, and clearly fans are tuning in in droves to find out the answers.


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By: Eric Lorenz
ProBasketball-fans.com Staff Writer

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