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Viewership and Ad Insights for ESPN's 'The Last Dance'

The much-anticipated documentary miniseries The Last Dance, focusing on Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, hit TV screens on Sunday, April 19.

Produced in partnership with ESPN and Netflix, the 10-part series was originally scheduled to be released in June, but with the coronavirus pandemic forcing all live sports (including the NBA) to suspend games, ESPN expedited the premiere -- much to the joy of fans everywhere. It will air in two-episode blocks on Sundays from April 19 to May 17.

Here’s a look at viewership trends for the first two episodes, via Inscape.tv, the TV data company with glass-level insights from a panel of more than 14 million smart TVs.

Inscape tracks live tune-in with a public dashboard available here, and you can see that by 9:15 p.m. ET on the 19th, The Last Dance had more live tune-in than anything else that was on TV. 

Here’s a look at what happened during an ad break (the few of them that there were during the broadcast):

ESPN is taking a unique approach to advertising during the series, working with only a limited number of brands across both ESPN and ESPN2 -- and most of those are integrating directly into the program while providing limited interruptions to the content. According to always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, the first airings of episode one and two had only 21 minutes and 45 seconds of commercials across the full two hours.

Facebook accounted for six of those minutes split between Facebook and Portal, while State Farm had five minutes. Reese’s, Humira and RINVOQ had two minutes of ad apiece. The remainder of the ad time was split between ESPN (1.5 minutes), SKYRIZI (1.5 minutes), NBA (one minute), NFL Network (30 seconds) and Knightline Legal (15 seconds).

Returning to Inscape’s data, viewership for the two-part premiere peaked at 10:38-39 p.m. ET, which was nearly 40 minutes into the second part of the documentary (and right around some key commentary from Michael Jordan himself):

For Sunday, April 19, The Last Dance on ESPN was the No. 5 show based on the percent of TVs watching (CBS’s 60 Minutes was first).

When it came to household tune-in, the top four DMAs on April 19 were, perhaps unsurprisingly, all in Illinois: Chicago, Peoria-Bloomington, Rockford, and Champaign & Springfield-Decatur. There was also high tune-in from Jonesboro, Ark. (near Scottie Pippen’s alma mater of Central Arkansas) and North Carolina DMAs like Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville). It's worth noting that Jordan grew up in the state and attended North Carolina, which could drive part of that interest.