Wesley Matthews # 9 of the Los Angeles Lakers watches over Luka Doncic # 77 of the Dallas Mavericks on December 25, 2020 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
John McCoy | Getty Images
After a drop in ratings for its championship series, the National Basketball Association is celebrating its most-watched opening week since 2012, spearheaded by competitions on Christmas Day.
The NBA, which started its shortened season with 72 games last week due to Covid-19, said an average of 3.4 million viewers saw their games December 22-25.
The Christmas Day game between LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers and Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks on Disney's ABC network topped the game with an average of 7 million viewers. On the same day, the Miami Heat-New Orleans Pelicans game averaged 3.5 million viewers, while the Los Angeles Clippers-Denver Nuggets game averaged 2.05 million viewers. These games were broadcast on Disney's ESPN.
Although the primetime 2020 Christmas Day competition had solid ratings on ABC, it was still below last year's Lakers-Clippers competition, which had around 8.8 million viewers on ABC and ESPN platforms.
According to the NBA, the double header had an average of 2.9 million viewers on AT & T's TNT on December 22, making it the most-watched opening night since 2017.
These games showed the Golden State Warriors against the Brooklyn Nets and the Clippers against the Lakers. The NBA said its combined viewership on TNT, ESPN and ABC for the 2020 openings grew 67% (3.4 million) compared to 2019, when the league NBA averaged 2.2 million viewers in the opening week .
The NBA told CNBC viewers that they had seen 81.5 million hours of live NBA coverage in the branches of national media partners. That's 41.8 million hours on ESPN and TNT in the opening week of 2019.
The NBA is betting on a surge in ratings after the pandemic impacts the 2020-19 season, forcing them to return to a crowded sports TV lineup that spans the postseason of Major League Baseball as well as the World Series and games the National Football League included. The first game of the 2020 NBA Finals received its lowest ratings since 1994, drawing 7.4 million viewers in part due to the sporting clutter.
The WarnerMedia-operated NBA television station will host national games in the next few days, with college football bowl games taking over the sports landscape. ESPN and TNT return to NBA games starting January 6th.