The NBA has to be pleased with the early ratings for Game 6 of the NBA Finals, continuing a trend of significant gains compared with 2020.
Tuesday’s Game 6 between the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks averaged a 6.6 rating and 12.52 million viewers on ABC. According to Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch, that represents a 57 percent increase in ratings and a 50 percent increase in viewership compared to Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals in the Orlando bubble.
Game 6 also marked the fifth-highest non-football sports audience since the cancellation of most events last March due to the pandemic. Game 6 of the 2020 World Series, the 2021 Kentucky Derby and the final two games of March Madness in 2021 are the only four broadcasts to top it. Notably, the game also came in as the highest-rated broadcast among adults since the Super Bowl.
The playoffs as a whole averaged a 7.1 share, which marks the highest mark for an NBA postseason since 2002. However, the numbers must be taken in the context of declining television usage. In context, the Finals ratings do remain low compared with historical figures, with only the 2003, 2007 and 2020 Finals posting lower average ratings than 2021.
Ratings were still down from the final pre-pandemic NBA Finals in 2019, with viewership declining by 33 percent compared to the Raptors-Warriors series. However, the Finals have been significantly up from 2020 for the entire series, which is good news for the league. The NBA will also feel optimistic about strong ratings for other key features of its postseason.