Miami’s repeat as NBA champions netted ABC its second-largest audience since it returned to pro basketball coverage in the 2002-03 season.
Led by Finals MVP Lebron James, the Heat’s hard-fought 95-88 triumph over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night averaged a 15.3 rating and 26.3 million viewers. That marked the second-biggest NBA audience on ABC over the past decade, according to Nielsen data, trailing only the 28.2 million who watched the Los Angeles Lakers defeat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 championship series, the most recent post-season chapter of the league’s most-storied rivalry.
Viewership for the June 20 telecast peaked in the 11:30 p.m.( ET) quarter hour with an average of 34.2 million watchers.
Coupled with the 12.3 rating and 20.6 million who watched Game 6 -- the Heat rallied in the final half-minute before winning in overtime as that contest now stands as the fifth-most-watched NBA telecast since 2003 -- the Miami-San Antonio series averaged a 10.5 rating and 17.7 million viewers, pushing past the 10.1 rating and 16.9 million watchers for the five-game Heat-Oklahoma City Finals in 2012 by 4% and 5%, respectively. Through the first five games, which featured four blowouts, Heat-Spurs averaged a 9.1 rating and 15.1 million viewers.
With the big numbers from Games 6 and 7, Miami-San Antonio leaped all the way to third in this ABC era, behind the 10.6 rating and 18.1 million viewers for Lakers-Celtics in 2010 and the 11.5 rating and 17.9 million watchers for the five-game Detroit Pistons championship run over the Lakers in 2004. The 2013 Finals marked the first time since that Piston-Lakers confrontation that two contests in a playoff series surpassed the 20 million audience plateau.
The series cumed 122.3 million viewers, a 45% jump from the 84.3 million for the five-game Heat-Thunder Finals in 2012.
The 2013 Finals' overall audience actually was higher after factoring Hispanic viewers into the equation as ESPN Deportes presented the NBA Finals for the first time. Network officials said Game 7 was the highest-rated, most-watched NBA contest in Spanish-language TV history, notching a 2.8 Hispanic household coverage rating, translating into 268,700 viewers. That eclipsed the 2.1 and 207,300 Hispanic viewers for Game 6, when the Spurs let the title slip through their hands.
Over the seven games, The Finals averaged a 1.6 Hispanic household coverage rating on ESPN Deportes, averaging 142,000 Latino viewers.