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A small-market NBA Finals didn't do much to hurt the league in the TV ratings department.
The Milwaukee Bucks' victory in the decisive Game 6 of the Finals averaged 12.5 million viewers and peaked at 16.5 million viewers from 11:30-11:45 p.m. ET, ESPN announced Wednesday.
Those numbers represent a 50 percent increase over last year — to go with a 50-point night from Giannis Antetokounmpo and the end of a 50-year title drought for the Bucks — and the most-watched game of the series.
NBA Finals ratings way up from 2020, down from 2019
The entire Finals averaged 9.9 million viewers, up 32 percent from last year's championship series. While those Finals featured the NBA's marquee team and player in the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James, the entire playoffs noticeably struggled in the ratings department due to multiple factors, particularly the timing of the series, which had to compete with the NFL and other fall television mainstays.
Per Sports Media Watch, the Bucks-Suns series were down 38 percent in ratings and 33 percent in viewership against the 2019 Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors, though the series featured the five most-watched NBA games since 2019. John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal also reports the entire NBA playoffs averaged 3.96 million viewers for 85 games across ABC, TNT, ESPN, and NBA TV, down 18 percent from 2019.
And, of course, the series was devoured in the markets of the teams competing for the title. Game 6 set 25-year ratings records in the Milwaukee (41.5 rating) and Phoenix (25.9 rating) markets, per ESPN.
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