If the Disney executives who run ABC and ESPN had one wish today, it would certainly be that the NBA Finals could have been extended to a Game 7, based on the ratings for Tuesday’s Game 6.
The 15.9 overnight rating for Game 6 was, not surprisingly, the highest for any game in the series, topping the 14.2 for Sunday’s Game 5. Considering that viewership for that game came in at nearly 21 million viewers, it’s not out of the question that viewership for Tuesday may top 23 million.
As it is, the Game 6 ratings marked the 48th straight night that an NBA Finals telecast was the most watched show on that particular night, broadcast or cable.
The Game 6 ratings were 8 percent higher than the last Game 6 of an NBA Finals, the Heat-Spurs contest in 2013. It helped that the two markets involved, San Francisco-Oakland and Cleveland, are bigger than Miami and San Antonio. Also, the matchup between LeBron James and Stephen Curry gave this year’s Finals a higher profile.
ESPN, which produces NBA coverage for its sister network, ABC, reports that the 13.9 average for the 2015 Finals is the highest ever for a championship series on ABC, which began carrying NBA games in the 2002-03 season.
Ratings for the 2015 Finals are not expected to approach the 18.7 rating for the Chicago-Utah series in 1998, Michael Jordan’s last title with the Bulls. Still, given the sharp increase in viewing options since then, this year’s numbers help explain why Disney and Turner re-upped with the NBA during this season for nine years, starting after the 2015-16 season for $24 billion.