After two games of the NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors are knotted up at one win apiece. But for the entire playoffs, the Celtics actually remain ahead by minutes watched on TV.
Below, we utilize glass-level insights from Vizio’s Inscape, including a panel of more than 19 million active and opted-in smart TVs, to quantify the NBA playoffs on TV through game two of the finals.
- As mentioned, the Celtics have led the way, accounting for 30.38% of playoff minutes watched so far. While part of that lead comes from playing in the NBA Finals, Boston also benefits from playing in seven-game series in both the Eastern Conference Finals (against the Miami Heat) and semifinals (against the Milwaukee Bucks), which naturally boosts watch-time.
- The Warriors are second, at 28.63% of minutes watched due in part to playing in fewer games in the playoffs (18, versus 20 for the Celtics). Golden State won the Western Conference Finals in five games over the Dallas Mavericks, though that series was also well-watched with four of the top 10 games by share of playoff watch-time.
- Trailing the Celtics and Warriors were the Mavericks (21.45% of minutes watched), Heat (19.42%) and the Phoenix Suns (15.67%). Dallas and Miami both played in the conference finals, so more games by default. The Suns, on the other hand, were knocked out in the Western Conference Semifinals but were also the league’s best team this year, so had plenty of eyeballs on them from game-to-game.
- Boston’s lead will continue to extend throughout the NBA Finals now, as they’ll be involved in all remaining games. Despite a lopsided game two win for the Warriors on Sunday, the contest accounted for 3.10% of all NBA playoffs watch-time – slightly more than game one’s share of minutes watched (3.00%). However, game one has also drawn the largest share of the NBA playoffs TV audience, with 27.20% of viewers.
- The two NBA Finals games so far are the most-watched games of the NBA playoffs so far. Boston’s game seven win over the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals is No. 3 at 2.04% of watch-time, and the Celtics game seven win over the Bucks before that is No. 4 at 1.93%. Golden State’s game one matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Semifinals is a surprising No. 5, with 1.90% of watch-time.
- Among some of the other interesting insights when looking at the NBA playoff audience data: The Toronto Raptors struggled to draw stateside viewers with three of the bottom five games by minutes watched (though, notably, all of those appeared on NBA TV instead of ABC/ESPN/TNT). Of the six play-in games before the full tournament field was set this year, April 15’s matchup between the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers accounted for the largest share of playoff minutes watched, with 0.77%.
- The largest TV markets also failed to factor into much of this year’s audience picture, with both the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks missing the playoffs, the Los Angeles Clippers falling in the play-in games, and the Brooklyn Nets being swept in the first round. Having a well-watched playoff despite New York and L.A.’s relative absence is a positive sign for the league as it eyes its next TV deal.
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John Cassillo is an analyst and contributor with TV[R]EV.