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NBA Finals Game 1 Scores Biggest Audience in 14 Years (Updated)

Overtime thriller grabs gaudy 17.8 million total viewers

Updated: Game 1 of the NBA Finals on ABC drew an average of 17.8 million total viewers, the most for the opening contest in 14 years.

The audience for Thursday’s tip-off was up 21 percent from last year’s opener, which pulled in 14.7 million viewers. Last night’s broadcast peaked from 11:30-11:45 p.m. ET with 21.9 million total viewers.

For the 43rd consecutive time, the NBA Finals propelled ABC to win the night across all of television — broadcast and cable — and across all key demos. The Golden State Warriors home win against the Cleveland Cavaliers more than doubled ABC’s primetime competition combined.

Thursday’s tip-off to the NBA Finals scored its best-ever Game 1 rating on ABC, pulling in a 12.9 per Nielsen’s overnight numbers.

That preliminary total, which is subject to change in final ratings, is currently 24 percent higher than 2014’s Game 1 (Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs). Last night’s back-and-forth broadcast peaked with a 15.6 overnight rating between 11:30 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. ET. The game ended at 11:57 p.m.

The hometown Golden State Warriors eventually won Game 1 in overtime, 108-100, despite Cavs star LeBron James pouring in 44 points. It is expected that the contest itself will win the night across TV for the 43rd consecutive time, when national numbers are in later today.

Additionally, “NBA Countdown” — ABC’s NBA Finals pregame show — generated a 4.6 overnight rating, which is up 18 percent from last year’s comparable broadcast.

Drilling down locally, Game 1 on ABC delivered a 41.4 rating in the participating Cleveland market and a 28.9 in the Golden State’s San Francisco market. Both numbers mark the highest-rated NBA games on ABC ever in the respective cities.

Here are the Top 10 markets from last night:
1. Cleveland: 41.4
2. San Francisco: 28.9
3. Columbus: 21.1
4. Memphis: 19.9
5. Norfolk: 16.5
6. Miami-Ft. Lauderdale: 16.2
7. Sacramento: 15.7
8. Atlanta: 15.6
9. Richmond-Petersburg: 15.2
10. Raleigh-Durham: 15.0

The NBA Finals will continue with Game 2 on ABC this Sunday, June 7, at 8 p.m. ET. “NBA Countdown” will precede the broadcast at 7:30 p.m. 

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