TV Ratings: NBA Finals Opens With Record Low Audience

2020 NBA Finals -Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Bam Adebayo
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The NBA Finals posted record-low TV ratings on Wednesday, consistent with steep declines throughout the postseason and with other sports whose seasons were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Fox's The Masked Singer, meanwhile, grew in its second week in a positive sign for the broadcast networks.

The opening game of the series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat brought 7.41 million viewers to ABC, the smallest audience for the finals since at least 1994, when total viewers began to be regularly recorded. The previous low was 8.06 million for Game 3 of the 2003 NBA Finals.

The game, which took place about four months later than the usual start date for the NBA Finals, was down by about 45 percent in total viewers vs. the U.S. audience for last year's finals opener between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors. The two conference finals series that wrapped up last week were down a collective 35 percent year to year. The NHL's Stanley Cup Final series, also delayed by several months, was down by more than 60 percent for NBC Sports. Major League Baseball has also struggled during its shortened season.

On the plus side for ABC, the NBA telecast led all of primetime in total viewers and the key ad demographic of adults 18-49 with a 2.9 rating. The latter figure is ABC's best same-day demo rating since the Oscars.

The Masked Singer posted double-digit gains for Fox, growing by 19 percent in adults 18-49 (1.6 to 1.9) and 17 percent in viewers (5.92 million to 6.93 million). I Can See Your Voice was steady in its second week with a 1.2 in the demo and 4.45 million viewers.

CBS' Big Brother hit a season high in total viewers (4.27 million) and was steady in adults 18-49 at 1.0. Love Island's finale also hit a total viewer high (2.03 million) and drew a 0.5 in the demo. The series finale of The 100 on The CW delivered a 0.2 in the demo and 614,000 viewers.

South Park's Pandemic Special led cable among adults 18-49 with a 1.3 rating across Comedy Central and MTV. It also scored 2.52 million viewers on the two networks. (The special also ran on MTV2, for which numbers weren't available.) Tucker Carlson Tonight and Hannity each delivered better than 4.9 million viewers for Fox News to top the total-audience rankings on cable.

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