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Ratings for Game 5 of NBA Finals Were a Disaster

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Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Bucks and Suns drew 9.6 million viewers on Saturday, down enormously from 2019’s Warriors-Raptors Game 5, which averaged 18.4 million viewers.

Remember, NBA media demanded last year that we discount the 2020 NBA Finals’ atrocious ratings because the matchup took place out of season and during a pandemic. So, as a nice guy, I’m honoring their requests and only comparing the 2021 Finals to 2019.

Here’s how the two Finals compare, via data from SportsMediaWatch:

2019 Finals:

  • Game 1: 13.5 million
  • Game 2: 14.1 million
  • Game 3: 13.44 million
  • Game 4: 13.2 million
  • Game 5: 18.3 million

2021 Finals:

  • Game 1: 8.6 million
  • Game 2: 9.4 million
  • Game 3: 9 million
  • Game 4: 10.3 million
  • Game 5 – 9.6 million

Tonight’s Game 6 will come well short of the 18 million viewers that Game 6 drew in 2019. It won’t come close. That said, if the Suns win, the NBA will get its first Finals Game 7 since 2016. And while a potential Buck-Suns Game 7 won’t sniff 2016’s 31 million, the additional game will help ABC and the NBA make extra money.

However, what is problematic is that Giannis Antetokounmpo’s star power doesn’t translate to viewership.

Antetokounmpo is 26-years-old and has been the best player in the NBA for the past several months. Win or lose this series, the Bucks will be a contender for the next decade. Between Antetokounmpo’s apparent lack of appeal and LeBron’s age, the NBA must find an individual star to usher it into the next era. For a league so reliant on star power, that’s priority No. 1.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

35 Comments

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  1. Was listening a little the other day and they were trying to spin that the smaller market tv viewership is up. Milwaukee Phoenix Utah Denver etc. Not sure how that helps when overall viewers are tanking but hey they got that going for em.

  2. It’s actually been a great series, for any real basketball fans. Two very talented & competitive teams; zero SJW’s; great broadcast crew of Breen, Van Gundy & Jackson
    ESPN halftime show sucks, because of JalenRose, but that’s when you do a fridge run anyway…
    The BASKETBALL is definitely worth watching, fellow Outkickers!!

    • I generally expect players to say dumb things.

      But when you’ve coaches like Stan Van Gundy, whose entire twitter feed is dedicated to slandering R’s, Steve Kerr, Greg Popovich, and Rick Carlisle, Doc Rivers garbage talking 77 million people is when you’ve lost me.

      Former viewer – I won’t be back.

    • Lol, for any “real” basketball fan? Get out of here with your sanctimonious crap. I don’t watch the China league, l love basketball, don’t like the way the pro game is now played, I love basketball, I despise ESPN and most of it’s talking heads, I love basketball. I like to go out and play it still. I do not, will not watch the NBA. I am a a fan of basketball.

    • It’s the NBA…the game is garbage, the league is garbage, ESPN is garbage, China is garbage, Nike is garbage. I’m trying to think of a reason to watch…none. I will go shoot some hoops with friends. Real fan. Lol

      • You mistook my point, Dennis.
        We’re 100% on the same page re NBA and politics – especially the Silvers and Kerrs and Popovichs, et al.
        All I’m saying is that the Bucks and Suns are playing a terrific series. Breen, Van Gundy & Jackson are a great broadcast team – zero SJW / Covid hysteria… So, you can actually watch THIS NBA series and see basketball the way it’s meant to be played and announced.
        I totally understand anybody whose made the decision to avoid the NBA! They deserve to go outta business. But Giannis, Booker, Middleton, Holiday, CP3 and the rest are playin’ their asses off without the BLM / SJW bulls*t on the courts, and it’s truly been amazing hoops.
        A lotta folks are missing a heckuva series – and it’s 100% the NBA’s fault…

  3. The problem is coaches and players bashing America and the police one political message after another none of them sound pro America plus the queen said if you don’t like it don’t watch. Now can you imagine the so called face of the league saying that so I took his advice I haven’t watched and don’t plan on watching. I use to go to the Forum and watch the showtime Lakers play a whole lotta fun I must say but those days are long gone sadly.

  4. “the NBA must find an individual star to usher it into the next era”…No, the NBA needs to stay the hell out of politics. I was one of the 18 million+ viewers in 2019, I was not one of the 9 million+ viewers in 2021. As long as that asshat LeBron is around and that POS Silver is in charge I won’t be watching.

  5. Lol, for any “real” basketball fan? Get out of here with your sanctimonious crap. I don’t watch the China league, l love basketball, don’t like the way the pro game is now played, I love basketball, I despise ESPN and most of it’s talking heads, I love basketball. I like to go out and play it still. I do not, will not watch the NBA. I am a a fan of basketball.

  6. Low ratings are the new NBA ratings standards after they told half the country they are racist and to not watch. The Woke NBA (WNBA) should have shut up and dribbled. The damage the NBA did is so substantial because they made the attacks personal. The load management problem is fixable, the poor play is maybe fixable, the cosmetic mask wearing is fixable but it’s not fixable when you say half the country is racist. The players will understand economics and capitalism soon when their pay is cut!

    • two problems:

      1) the poor play can only be fixed by the players being willing to play defense. That ain’t “cool,” so you can forget “Basketball,” at least at the PRO level, actually being played… its all about the “dunk” and the “three.”

      2) Capitalism cant fix “woke.” No sponsor can leave the NBA — they are stuck supporting this crap or being labelled as “racist” — the NBA sponsorship is MUCH less than the potential losses after Jackson, Sharpton, Steven A. Smith, and Lebron spend weeks berating the poor company who will have a “insider” whistle-blower accuse the company of a “virtual lynching” in his cubicle (with video) while their stock price goes negative….

  7. Once again,OUTKICK HAS BEEN CAUGHT LYING Again…here’s the truth :

    Saturday’s Bucks-Suns NBA Finals Game 5 averaged a 4.8 rating and 9.62 million viewers on ABC, flat in ratings and up a modest 7% viewership from Heat-Lakers last October, a potential title-clincher and the most-watched game in the “bubble”

    Booby and Outkick didn’t mention this either :

    Saturday night has long been the least-watched night of the week and sporting events traditionally average fewer viewers on that night than any other.

    Bobby and Outkick.also failed to mention this too:

    Game 5 still ranks as the second-most watched NBA game since the league went on hiatus in March of last year, and delivered the eighth-largest (non-football) sports audience since 2019. While Game 5s are generally expected to outperform previous games in a series, it bears noting that the Saturday night game outdrew the Tuesday Game 1 (8.56M), Thursday Game 2 (9.38M) and even the Sunday night Game 3 (9.02M).

    After Games 2-4 each topped the corresponding game of last year’s World Series, Game 5 could not match the equivalent Rays-Dodgers game last October (10.06M). That game had an NFL lead-in (though it also faced NFL competition).

    Just the facts folk. Basketball is more than a game, it’s a CULTURE. And it damn sure won’t be stopped by Outkick, Bobby or Outkick. Davis Stern foresaw MAGA and Conservatives 40 years ago. “HATERS ARE MY MOTIVATORS “…See Jesse Owens…. Hi Adolf…frickin loser

    • The NBA being global has nothing to do with it drop in viewership. Come up with whatever math you can conjure up but there is no way the NBA is as culturally significant as it has been historically. If you think it is, I would have to think you are very young and have no idea what life was like before 2008 or just a liar.

      • “there is no way the NBA is as culturally significant as it has been historically.”??

        Now that’s funny. You don’t actually believe that do you ? There’s a reason Bobby Burrak and Clay Travis gaslight and pander off of the NBA. It’s because it triggers the AWM conservatives and MAGA Males. Cmin dude, you know how the game is played. The NBA culture thrives on you hating. The sport itself is a big.middle finger to “the man” and its inherent bias to begin with. Cmon junior, catch up to reality. “It is what it is” and we accept the challenge. #Dbap #GetUrDone

          • Don’t reply to Mason Mauler, er Balls in his mouth Don’t Lie. He is just here to troll. He supports the contrarian point of view to prove to the heathens on this website that he is oh so wise and “progressive”. Anyone with half a brain can see the NBA ratings are down. The NBA has made it clear they cater to 13% of the country and the SJW crowd. Effectively eliminating a large chunk of potential viewers. The NBA is pandering to China. So fine, please move the headquarters to Beijing and keep supporting actual slavery. That’s the irony people like Balls in his mouth Don’t Lie refuse to acknowledge the hypocrisy of LeBitch and co whining about oppression when they pander to the closest thing we have in the world today to Nazi’s or Stalin’s USSR. If the NBA doesn’t want me as a fan, that’s fine just don’t watch. If you don’t like me or want me around, I don’t like you or want to be around you.

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