NBA viewership statistics

Posted on 01 November, 2023 by Dimitrije Curcic

NBA is one of the most-watched sports leagues worldwide. By current, contract the league receives 2.66 billion per year from broadcasting rights.

We decided to dive deep into the history of viewership of the NBA, and now presenting you 57 stats on NBA viewership and TV ratings.

NBA viewership by year

NBA regular season viewership by year

  • Average NBA viewership across ABC, ESPN, and TNT for the 2020-21 season are 1.32 million.
  • This is a 12% decrease from the 2019-21 season and a 25% decrease from the 2018-19 season.
  • 2021 saw the lowest viewership averages in the NBA over the last 8 years. It is a 33% drop from the 2013-14 season, a season with the highest average viewership over the last 8 seasons.
  • NBA viewership faced a decline for a third straight season and had an annual decrease in 5 of the previous 7 seasons.
  • The average viewership on ESPN was 1.19 million in the 2020-21 season, a 7% drop from the previous year.
  • ABC viewership dropped by 9.8% from 2020, standing at 2.67 million on average for 2021.
  • TNT faced the largest decline in viewership from last year, averaging 1.22 million, 10% lower than the previous season.

NBA playoffs viewership by year

  • 2020-21 NBA Playoffs averaged 3.7 million viewers, excluding the Finals.
  • This is a 35% jump over the 2019-20 season when the Playoffs faced a 33% drop from 2018-19.
  • Last season's viewership increase was the largest annual increase in viewership over the last 10 years.
  • 2019-20 NBA Playoffs were the least watched playoffs over the last 11 seasons, averaging 2.74 million viewers.
  • Prior to the 2019-20 season, all NBA playoffs averaged over 4 million viewers since 2010, peaking at 5 million in the 2010-11 season.
  • 2019-20 conference finals were also the least watched at least over the last 10 seasons, averaging 4.2 million viewers.
  • This is a 35% decrease from the 2018-19 season, and a 54% decrease from 2017-28.
  • Over the last decade, NBA conference finals viewership peaked in 2011-12 season, averaging 9.1 million viewers.

NBA Finals viewership by year

  • 2020-21 NBA Finals between Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks had an average viewership of 9,91 million across 6 games, with game 6 peaking at 12.52 million.
  • 2021 NBA Finals viewership was 33% larger compared to the 2019-20 Finals, which were the least-watched NBA Finals over the last 30 years.
  • 2021 Finals are one of 4 NBA finals with average viewership under 10 million (2021, 2020, 2007, 2003)
  • 1997-98 NBA Finals between Michael Jordan's Bulls and Utah Jazz had an average viewership of 29.04 million, making them the most-watched NBA Finals in league history.
  • Game 6 of the 1997-98 NBA Finals between Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz is the most-watched basketball game in history, averaging 35.89 million viewers.
  • It is followed by another Michael Jordan's iconic game, game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals, which averaged 32.1 million viewers.
  • Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals between Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors is the third most-watched NBA game ever, averaging 31.01 million viewers.
  • 6 out of 8 least-watched NBA Finals games since 1991 came in the 2019-20 season.
  • With 5.94 million viewers, game 3 of the 2019-20 NBA Finals is the least-watched game of any NBA finals since 1991.
  • On average, Game 2 of the NBA finals is the least-watched game in the series, averaging 14.2 million viewers from 1991 to 2021.
  • Game 7 of the NBA finals average 24.3 million viewers over the same period, making them the most-watched games in a series.
  • NBA Finals featuring Chicago Bulls had a total viewership of 884.8 million across 35 games. The Bulls are the most-watched NBA team in the Finals since 1991.
  • 49 games featuring Los Angeles Lakers were viewed by 804.4 million people, second-most in the Finals since 1991.
  • NBA Finals featuring Utah Jazz averaged 27.3 million viewers over 12 games, making Jazz a team with the highest-average viewers in the finals since 1991.
  • Bulls' finals games had an average viewership of 25.3 million.
  • All top4 teams with the highest NBA finals viewership average included Michael Jordan on the court.
  • Every NBA Finals featuring Michael Jordan averaged over 20 million viewers.
  • NBA Finals featuring Milwaukee Bucks average 9.9 million viewers, lowest among all teams.
  • 10 Finals games featuring New Jersey Nets have an average viewership of 12.2 million, the second-lowest among teams that made it to the final stage since 1991.
  • 6 NBA Finals and 34 games featuring San Antonio Spurs had 13.7 million viewers on average, the third-lowest among all teams since 1991.

NBA All-Star viewership by year

  • 2021 NBA All-Star game averaged 5.94 million viewers, making it the lowest-watched All-Star game at least since 1990.
  • This was an 18.4% decrease from the 2020 game and a 35% decrease from the 2011 game.
  • 8 out of 10 least-watched All-Star games occurred since 2010.
  • 8 out of 10 most-watched All-Star games occurred during the 90s.

Michael Jordan is a player who affected viewership of All-Star games the most:

  • 1993 All-Star was the most-watched All-Star game in the league's history, averaging 22.91 million viewers.
  • When Jordan left the NBA for the first time in 1994, All-Star game viewership dropped by 40.3% to 13.7 million.
  • Jordan's second retirement was followed by another huge drop in All-Star game viewership, a 37.9% decline in 2000.
  • His final return to basketball and All-Star led to a 68.8% increase in viewership in 2002.
  • 2 Jordan's All-Star games in the 2000s were the only All-Stars in the 21st century with over 10 million viewers. 

NBA Christmas games viewership by year

  • 2021 Christmas games in the NBA averaged 4.3 million viewers, a 16.3% drop from 2020.
  • 2021 Christmas games were third lowest in viewership since 2000.
  • The viewership peaked in 2004 and 2005, averaging 8.9 and 7.1 million viewers, respectively.

NBA teams on national TV

  • Los Angeles Lakers are scheduled to appear 28 times on national television in the 2021-22 season, most in the league.
  • Lakers are followed by the Golden State Warriors (27), Brooklyn Nets (24), and Milwaukee Bucks (24).
  • Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings are teams without national TV coverage in 2021-22.
  • Atlanta Hawks are the NBA team with the largest annual increase in the number of nationally televised games - a 300% increase in 2021-22 over 2020-21.
  • New York Knicks jumped from 20 to 65 broadcasts, a 186% annual increase.
  • Houston Rockets (-88%), Toronto Raptors (-67%), and Indiana Pacers (-67%) are the teams with the largest annual decrease in national broadcast in 2022.
  • Over the last 6 seasons, Golden State Warriors appeared 170 times on national television, most among 30 NBA teams.
  • Los Angeles Lakers (156) are the only other team with over 150 national broadcasts over 6 years.
Team 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 Total
Atlanta Hawks 8 0 1 2 3 12 26
Boston Celtics 22 25 27 25 25 21 145
Brooklyn Nets 1 0 1 12 27 24 65
Charlotte Hornets 3 3 1 1 3 4 15
Chicago Bulls 25 1 3 1 3 5 38
Cleveland Cavaliers 25 27 2 1 0 0 55
Dallas Mavericks 8 6 5 13 21 19 72
Denver Nuggets 3 9 14 17 12 12 67
Detroit Pistons 6 4 4 2 0 1 17
Golden State Warriors 28 31 28 30 26 27 170
Houston Rockets 13 28 28 26 8 1 104
Indiana Pacers 11 1 12 6 3 1 34
Los Angeles Clippers 24 19 3 26 23 14 109
Los Angeles Lakers 14 23 31 31 29 28 156
Memphis Grizzlies 5 3 1 2 4 6 21
Miami Heat 5 5 5 6 14 10 45
Milwaukee Bucks 3 10 18 24 21 24 100
Minnesota Timberwolves 10 17 13 1 1 1 43
New Orleans Pelicans 5 8 13 20 20 9 75
New York Knicks 22 8 5 3 7 20 65
Oklahoma City Thunder 21 27 27 3 0 0 78
Orlando Magic 1 0 1 1 0 0 3
Philadelphia 76ers 3 14 27 24 18 14 100
Phoenix Suns 4 4 3 1 13 21 46
Portland Trail Blazers 14 11 13 20 9 8 75
San Antonio Spurs 24 24 13 5 0 1 67
Toronto Raptors 6 5 15 11 6 2 45
Utah Jazz 8 7 11 16 10 13 65
Washington Wizards 5 18 8 1 0 2 34

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Author
Dimitrije Curcic
Dimitrije Curcic
Dimitrije Curcic has been playing basketball for over 22 years. Like Manu Ginobili, he’s a left-hander whose moves led him to a better career-shooting percentage than the Argentine himself. After playing professionally for 10 years, Dimitrije moved to coaching for two seasons before he became a basketball statistician for StatScore, and FanSided contributor for the San Antonio Spurs. Dimitrije loves to tell hoop stories through numbers and graphics and has been featured on Fansided, FiveThirtyEight, Eurohoops, and TalkBasket among the others.