NBA Finals Show Benefits Of Real-Time Live Events

June TV’s prime-time viewership lows typically get a spike with ABC’s NBA playoffs and finals. All that “real-time” content rarely get time-shifted.

And everyone can take heart that this year’s NBA finals are off to a good start, with the first game posting the highest viewership results in 14 years. And then there is the real-time social aspect. Game one posted over 3.1 million social media tweets.

Better still, the NBA Finals featured the Golden State Warriors  -- which included the most valuable player this season, Stephen Curry --versus the Cleveland Cavaliers' perennial MVP LeBron James, who has now been in five consecutive NBA Finals.

Game one of the NBA Finals pulled good media statistics: a big 17.8 million overall viewers and a healthy 6.8 rating/25 share among 18-49 viewers -- with the added bonus of the game going into overtime.

NBA’s top executives couldn’t ask for more. But the series still needs to deliver in terms of drama, which may be in some doubt due to injuries to key personnel.



Going forward, we can expect the fall will continue to offer up big live viewing again for the NFL, which has been a model of consistency over the last few years.

But it’s the non-sports live programming that will be closely watched for this upcoming season. Though NBC did surprisingly well with its “Sound of Music Live!” event for the holiday season 2013 -- 18.4 million viewers -- in 2014 “Peter Pan Live!” earned way-lower results: 9.1 million viewers.

TV networks recognize marketers’ continued interest in this arena -- perhaps paying premium advertising dollars for access to live big events. So NBC will continue, offering up “The Wiz Live!” for this holiday season.  Fox will join the race, doing a live version of “Grease” in January 2016.

But apart from sports and occasional one-off special events -- including reality shows’ final episodes -- all this doesn’t seem enough. One big test comes with the launch of a regularly scheduled live variety/celebrity/reality show: 10 episodes of  “Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris” on NBC later this year.

Still, the current track record here is bumpy. If these ideas don’t pan out, marketers will continue to seek steadier-viewed sports TV content — or worse. They’ll take their ball and play elsewhere.

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