Game 1 of the NBA Finals experienced its lowest ratings since records were kept. Ratings for the first game of the NBA Finals plunged nearly 50% since last year.
The 2020 NBA Finals features the illustrious Los Angeles Lakers, one of the most beloved and hated franchises in the association, with a star-studded roster boasting LeBron James and Anthony Davis going head-to-head against the Cinderella story Miami Heat.
Despite the intriguing matchup, many sports fans were not interested in watching Game 1 of the Finals on Wednesday. Game 2 is at 9 p.m. ET Friday night.
Game 1 averaged a lowly 4.1 rating and 7.41 million viewers on ABC, "comfortably the lowest rated and least-watched NBA Finals game on record (dates back to 1988)," according to Sports Media Watch. For comparison, Fox's reality TV singing competition "The Masked Singer" pulled in 6.932 million viewers on Wednesday night.
The previous all-time low came in Game 2 of the 2003 NBA Finals between the New Jersey Nets and the San Antonio Spurs with a 5.2 rating and 8.06 million viewers.
Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals plummeted 48% in the ratings from last year's Game 1 between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors, and down an abysmal 59% from 2018's Finals opener featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.
The NBA Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and Denver Nuggets plummeted 41% from a "comparable outing between the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers in 2019."
Last week's Eastern Conference Finals between the Heat and Boston Celtics averaged 4.48 million viewers, down 15% from a "comparable game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors in 2019, and 44% from a Cleveland Cavaliers and Celtics showdown from 2018."
During the first week of the 2020 NBA playoffs, ESPN, ABC, and TNT averaged 1.875 million TV viewers per game, down 20% compared to 2019.
"From 2012 to 2020, broadcast NBA ratings are down 45%," according to Outkick.
The disappointing playoff ratings come at a time when the NBA has become more vocal about social justice and activism. Following the coronavirus shutdown, the NBA has enacted a policy of allowing players to select from 29 league-approved social activism messages on their jerseys such as "Black Lives Matter," "I Can't Breathe," and "Anti-Racist."
The NBA painted "Black Lives Matter" on its bubble basketball court in Orlando.
On Wednesday, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert publicly condemned China for allegedly operating concentration camps. Gobert made the comments despite facing possible backlash from the league and fellow players, much like Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey experienced after posting one tweet in October 2019 showing support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Americans' opinion of the sports industry has declined sharply in the past year, according to a Gallup poll. People who had a very or somewhat positive view of the sports industry fell 15 points in 2020.