The recent NBA Finals contested between the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks averaged a viewership of 12.2 million in its final game five last Monday. 

NBA broadcaster ABC confirmed that game five peaked at a viewership of 13.2 million as the Celtics clinched a record 18th Larry O’Brien trophy by beating the Mavericks 106-88 to win the series 4-1. 

The average viewership across all five games was 13,576,000. Disney – ABC’s parent company – also confirmed that this year’s final set a viewership record for the largest share of audience in the 18-34 demographic. 

Disney also revealed that the ABC pregame show was the most-watched in five years, averaging an audience of just over four million. 

This year’s finals average viewership would place it third amongst the last five NBA finals from 2020 onwards. The 2022 finals, which saw Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors defeat the Celtics in six games averaged 14,468,000 viewers. 

Last year’s Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat finals averaged an audience of 13,972,000 across five games. 

Whilst it appears the NBA have recovered from the record-low TV viewership averages of the 2020 and 2021 finals – hampered by the affects of COVID-19 – it appears that the league may never reach the viewership ratings it achieved in the 2010s on traditional cable TV. 

Much of the 2010s NBA finals was dominated by the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers rivalry, appearing in four consecutive finals from 2015 to 2018, with game seven from the 2016 finals becoming the third-most watched NBA finals game in history as LeBron James won Cleveland its first NBA championship. 

However, since the onset of the pandemic, consumers have become significantly more digitised, opting for streaming platforms which enables more viewing flexibility as opposed to the traditional structure of cable TV. 

And the NBA has been noticing the decline in traditional TV. With the league becoming one of the most prevalent digital platforms in terms of engagement and interaction on its social media platforms, such as X, Instagram and YouTube, it has also brought Amazon Prime Video as part of its new media rights deal

The NBA is expected to confirm a new multi-year broadcast deal worth a reported $76bn in total, retaining broadcast partners such as ESPN and ABC, whilst bringing on board NBC and its first-ever exclusive streaming partner Amazon. 

Whilst the previous broadcast deal prevented the league from making the shift to streaming until the current agreement ends next year, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been vocal in his praise of Amazon’s coverage of NFL’s Thursday Night Football, which has steadily been improving in terms of viewership. 

With the NBA now set to embark on a new streaming future, only time will tell if the league can bring fans back on board to watch live games back to pre-pandemic levels. 

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