It may not have matched the record-setting marks of Turner Network Television’s presentation of the National Basketball Association’s Western Conference Finals, but the sixth and deciding game of the Eastern Conference Finals June 1 also scored big: It was the most-watched basketball game -- college or pro, men’s or women’s -- in ESPN’s nearly 25-year history.
The Detroit Pistons’ victory over the Indiana Pacers to earn a trip to the NBA Finals posted a 5.0 rating -- the highest NBA rating in ESPN history -- and was seen in an average of nearly 4.41 million households.
That performance topped the network’s basketball-viewership mark set earlier this year by the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship between Tennessee and Connecticut, which attracted 3.8 million homes and produced a 4.3 rating.
The game’s rating is also ESPN’s best to date in 2004, topping the 4.8 for the National Football League Pro Bowl Feb. 8.
All told, the six Eastern Conference Finals telecasts averaged a 3.8 rating, up 36% from last year’s 2.8 average (two games). Among men 18-34, the games notched a 32% jump to a 3.3 from last year’s 2.5.
TNT registered a 7.3 with the Los Angeles Lakers-Minnesota Timberwolves Western Conference Finals game-six telecast May 31.
That was the highest-rated playoff game in TNT history and second-highest-rated game ever on cable behind TNT's NBA All-Star Game telecast in 2003, which dunked an 8.2 rating in what was the final big showcase for hoops icon Michael Jordan.