NBA Finals Lose Ground Over 2-Year Period, While Streaming Rises

Although NBA Finals viewing was up from a year ago, it was down big time from 2019 -- registering the fourth-least-watched NBA Finals ever, according to Nielsen data.

The silver lining is that streaming data showed continued growth.

Roku, the largest digital-streaming set-top-box/platform with 53.6 million monthly active users, says the NBA event was up 17.4% in “streaming reach,” which resulted in a 42% increase in streaming hours over a year ago.

Roku says the data excludes virtual pay TV providers (vMVPDs), such as Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV, which carried ABC, live, linear TV airing the event exclusively.

Looking at just Roku households that watched the event on ABC, 10.4% streamed a part of the 2021 games Finals, while the percentage came in at just 3.9% of homes for the 2020 NBA Finals. Roku says its results here include viewing data from virtual pay TV providers -- such as Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV.



Roku says about 48 million viewers 18 years and older tuned in to the 2021 NBA Finals on traditional linear TV (ABC) -- up 11.2% vs. the 2020 Finals.

Roku viewers are not based on average minute audience, as per Nielsen’s traditional TV measure. Rather, it represents total viewers of one minute or more of viewing time.

Although the NBA Finals -- where the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns in six games -- grew 32% in viewing to average a Nielsen-measured 9.9 million viewers versus 2020, under its live-program-plus-same-day viewing metric, it was down 35% from 2019 which averaged a 15.1 million.

The NBA Playoffs -- on ESPN, TNT and ABC -- were up 35% to 4.25 million Nielsen-measured viewers.

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