There had been delays in Nielsen reporting due to the holidays, so the final numbers for NBA Christmas TV viewership did not come out until today. Here are the totals and how they compare to the last two years, with viewership in millions, via Showbuzz Daily:
Note that Pelicans-Heat and Clippers-Nuggets aired on ESPN, Warriors-Bucks and Nets-Celtics aired on ABC, and Mavs-Lakers was simulcast on ESPN and ABC. This scheduling format was consistent in all three years of this sample. A few notes:
1) The average viewership of the five games is down 16.5 percent from last year and 25.3 percent from two years ago. The marquee primetime game, Mavs-Lakers, was down 20.1 percent from last year and a whopping 32 percent from 2018, a game which featured LeBron and the Lakers versus the not-yet-depleted Warriors. Prior to 2018, the marquee Christmas Day NBA game was in the 5:00 pm ET window, rather than at night. This season’s marquee game had the lowest viewership since 2007, according to the historical ratings chart from Sports Media Watch.
2) The 5:00 pm game on ABC has also slipped a lot in the last two years. It was down 34.7 percent from last year and 41.8 percent from two years ago. A big reason for this was the NFL competition in this window. Saints-Vikings averaged over 20 million viewers on FOX and NFL Network, nearly five times the number that watched Nets-Celtics this year. The NFL continues to dwarf everything else, not just in sports, but all of television.
3) The silver lining in these numbers is that the ESPN exclusive games were up from last season. Clippers-Nuggets was up 20.6 percent and Pelicans-Heat was up 5.1 percent versus the corresponding window last year.