Why Jimmy Kimmel Is the Real Winner of This Year’s NBA Finals

Late-night host’s “Game Night” primetime special is posting its best numbers ever, and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” just hit a six-week high

Perhaps Jimmy Kimmel should move to primetime permanently.

“Jimmy Kimmel Live Game Night,” the 30-minute primetime version of his late-night gig that serves as a lead-in to ABC’s NBA Finals pregame show, is averaging its best-ever numbers since the series’ 2008 inception.

On Thursday, the special netted 4.4 million total viewers and a 1.4 rating/6 share in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic. The episode was up 22 percent in total eyeballs (4.4 million vs. 3.6 million) and rose 44 percent in the main demo versus the same night last year (1.0/4).

Game 5’s Sunday version wasn’t as smashing a success, but ABC isn’t complaining: viewing levels were down across the board.

Through five games of this NBA Championship series, “Game Night” is up six percent in total viewers, while flat in the demo versus last year.

Overall, the Kimmel special is up 31 percent in total viewers and 83 percent in the key demo versus the show’s 2014-15 season averages in late night, ABC boasted, though the earlier timeslot and shorter format make that an admittedly apples-to-oranges comparison.

“Game Night” airs in different timeslots nationwide, and this year the special will get at least one extra episode than it did from the 2014 NBA Finals, as this Cleveland Cavaliers-Golden State Warriors series will go six or seven games versus last year’s five.

And the “Game Night” exposure may be helping “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in its regular timeslot on NBA Finals off nights. During the week of June 1, “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” grew to a six-week high in the main demo (827,000). Plus, Thursday’s “JKL” was the night’s No. 1 late-night telecast, beating “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” by 26 percent (1.347 million viewers vs. 1.072 million).

And the roundball coverage is translating digitally too. In its first five days, the third NBA edition of Kimmel’s popular “Mean Tweets” series amassed 7.8 million video views on the late-night show’s YouTube Channel, marking the highest view count of the three installments.

Kimmel recently wrapped its most-watched season ever with its fifth straight year of growth in late night.