The Warriors and Thunder played an amazing seven-game series. It had all the necessary drama with stars, historic teams, and great competition. It also set cable ratings record for the NBA. Now with the two top-seeds in the NBA meeting in the finals, ABC hopes to build on its momentum and reach new heights with its own ratings record. It is distinctly possible that if the Warriors v. Cavs series goes to six or seven games it could be the highest watched finals since the NBA moved over from NBC to ABC.
The highest rated game since 1991 was Michael Jordan’s Bulls winning their sixth title in game six of the 1998 NBA Finals. That pulled a 22.3 Nielsen rating with 38 million viewers. That series was televised on NBC. ABC took over NBA Finals rights in 2003 and managed to secure the lowest rated finals ever with the Spurs and Nets. Game two of that series registered just a 5.2. Since ABC has taken over rights the highest rating it ever secured was game seven of the 2010 NBA Fianls between the Celtics and the Lakers (15.6/27).
The 2016 Western Conference Finals came relatively close to those Celticsv. Lakers numbers and it was on cable. Now the Finals move to a broadcast network, with the NBA MVP — Steph Curry — versus its most famous player — LeBron James. It pits east versus west. The team with a 73-win season versus the nemesis it defeated last year. Not only that, but both teams style of play are conducive to bringing in casual fans. The games will be played at an extremely high tempo and should be entertaining.
The only thing ABC can hope for now is a close series. As one would guess, the higher rated games are generally games six and seven of a series. A four or five game series would still grab ratings, but not at the level of previous records.