ESPN Nets Largest NBA Draft Audience Since 1996


Many hoops pundits didn't deem the class to be very strong, but the numbers were for ESPN's presentation of the NBA Draft on Thursday night.
ESPN averaged a 2.4 rating and 3.2 million viewers for its 2011 NBA Draft Presented by Kia Motors telecast, which ran from 7:30 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. (ET), according to Nielsen data.
That made the selection show, which saw the Cleveland Cavaliers take Duke point guard Kyrie Irving with the first pick, ESPN's best draft show since it tipped off such coverage in 2003 and the best overall since 1996.
The 2011 selection show was up 15% over the 2.8 million watchers for the 2010 draft, which netted a 2.2 rating.
The network's draft coverage capped off a 2010-11 campaign which included the second most-viewed NBA Finals since 2004 on ABC and the highest-rated and most-viewed NBA Finals Game 6 ever on the network; ESPN's most-viewed NBA postseason ever; the highest-rated and most-viewed regular season on ESPN and ABC; and the largest audiences ever for the NBA on Christmas Day.

Culminating with its coverage of the Eastern Conference finals between the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls as the top-rated series ever, TNT dunked cable's most-watched NBA postseason season ever in 2011. That followed the drama network's top regular-season delivery in 27 years of covering the pro hoops league.

The 2011 draft, though, might be the last piece of NBA action fans see for quite some time: the collective bargaining agreement is set to expires on June 30 and the players and owners remain far apart on a number of major financial issues.