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The opening of the 2022 NBA Finals scored for ABC.
Game one of the series, a 120-108 win for the Boston Celtics over the Golden State Warriors, drew 11.4 million viewers — the biggest audience for the series opener in three years, per Nielsen. A simulcast on ESPN2 added 501,000 more viewers.
The two-channel total of 11.9 million viewers is up 39 percent from last year’s opening game, which averaged 8.56 million viewers (on ABC only). ABC’s telecast alone improved by 33 percent year to year.
The audience for Thursday’s game also surpassed that of any NBA Finals game — save the deciding game six last year — in 2020 and ’21.
ABC’s broadcast also earned a 3.63 rating among adults 18-49, a 27 percent gain over the 2.86 for the opener of the 2021 series. Adding in the 0.17 rating for the ESPN2 simulcast, the 3.8 rating is up 33 percent year to year.
The ratings boost for Thursday’s game is in keeping with increases for the NBA as a whole this season. Regular season games had their highest average viewership (1.6 million) since the 2018-19 season, and each round of the playoffs also reached multi-year highs (with the caveat that prior to last season, Nielsen ratings didn’t include out of home viewing).
Having two of the league’s most recognizable teams — both of which play in top-10 media markets — likely helped tune-in Thursday. The NBA Finals are also back in their regular early June home after two years of pandemic-related delays. Last year’s Finals began on July 6, a month later than usual; the 2020 series was played in September and October.
The NBA telecast was far and away the most watched program in primetime Thursday. A rerun of Young Sheldon on CBS (3.86 million viewers) was a distant second, while the CBS News-produced Her Majesty the Queen: A Gayle King Special drew 3.13 million.
Bookmark THR.com/Ratings for more ratings news and numbers.
June 3, 2:05 p.m. Updated to reflect ratings figures are not necessarily final.
June 6, 2 p.m. Updated with confirmation that the initial ratings were indeed finals.
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