NBA Finals ratings up from 2020 pandemic, down from 2019

NEW YORK — The NBA Finals has gained some, but not all, of its audience back after last year’s trip to the pandemic bubble.

The first three games of the championship match between the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks averaged just about 9 million viewers, the Nielsen company said.

That’s up 41% from the 6.38 million who watched the first three games of last year’s series between the L.A. Lakers and Miami Heat. The 2000 series was held in the odd time of late September and October and played without live audiences due to COVID-19 restrictions.

This year’s series is close to normal in timing, and live audiences have returned. Compared to the pre-COVID 2019 series where Toronto beat Golden State, this year’s audience is down 34%, Nielsen said.

Most events tend to lose viewers from year to year, with the increased choices that consumers have. The 2019 series also featured the well-known Golden State Warriors, who were competing in their fifth straight Finals.

The Finals helped ABC dominate the prime time ratings, as the network averaged 4.6 million viewers for the week. NBC had 2.9 million, CBS had 2.7 million, Univision had 1.8 million, Fox had 1.7 million, Ion Television had 1.1 million and Telemundo had 1 million.

Fox News Channel led the cable networks, averaging 2.02 million viewers in prime time. HGTV had 1.25 million, MSNBC had 1.23 million, Hallmark had 880,000 and History had 842,000.

Evening news ratings were not immediately made available by Nielsen.

For the week of July 5-11, the 20 most-watched shows, their networks and viewerships:

1. NBA Finals, Game 2: Milwaukee at Phoenix, ABC, 9.38 million.

2. NBA Finals, Game 3: Phoenix at Milwaukee, ABC, 9.02 million.

3. NBA Finals, Game 1: Milwaukee at Phoenix, ABC, 8.56 million.

4. “America’s Got Talent,” NBC, 7.24 million.

5. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 6.57 million.

6. “NBA Post-Game Show” (Sunday), ABC, 4.94 million.

7. “Big Brother” (Wednesday), CBS, 4.25 million.

8. “The $100,000 Pyramid,” ABC, 3.99 million.

9. “NCIS,” CBS, 3.85 million.

10. “Press Your Luck,” ABC, 3.78 million.

11. “Big Brother” (Sunday), CBS, 3.76 million.

12. “Young Sheldon,” CBS, 3.59 million.

13. “FBI,” CBS, 3.57 million.

14. “The Bachelorette,” ABC, 3.52 million.

15. NHL Stanley Cup Final, Game 5: Montreal at Tampa Bay, NBC, 3.51 million.

16. “FBI: Most Wanted,” CBS, 3.31 million

17. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (Thursday), Fox News, 3.23 million.

18. “NBA Countdown” (Thursday), ABC, 3.22 million.

19. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (Tuesday), Fox News, 3.15 million.

20. “The Neighborhood,” CBS, 3.11 million.