Rockets-Thunder Game 7 a national hit, but local ratings dip

Rockets-Thunder Game 7 a national hit, but local ratings dip

The Rockets-Thunder playoff series closed with a flourish, producing the largest audience of the NBA’s restart, but the local audience was down considerably from last year’s first round against the Jazz.

Five of the seven games between Houston and Oklahoma City had afternoon starts ranging from 2:30 to 5:45 p.m., which almost certainly reduced the audience from the five-game Rockets-Jazz series in 2019, all five of which took place in prime time.

Two of the seven games this year also aired on AT&T SportsNet Southwest’s alternate channel, for which viewership totals from the Nielsen Co. were not available.

Still, the dropoff was considerable, from a 10.6 rating and 332,800 viewers for Rockets-Jazz to 4.6 and 180,857 viewers for Rockets-Thunder.

Game 7, however, was a considerable highlight nationally. It drew 4.11 million viewers, making it the most-watched NBA game since a Blazers-Lakers game Jan. 31, the first Lakers game after the death of Kobe Bryant, and the largest cable sports audience since the NFL Draft on April 23 on ESPN.

In Houston, the game had a 5.9 Nielsen rating and 236,000 viewers on ESPN. Again, viewership totals for the AT&T SportsNet Southwest telecast, which aired opposite an Astros game on the main network channel, were not available.

The five Rockets games that were measured on AT&T SportsNet Southwest averaged a 1.4 rating with 57,000 viewers, down from 3.1 with 105,000 viewers for the 2019 playoff series. Four of the five measured games on AT&T had afternoon starts.

While the large number of afternoon starts have dragged down average ratings, NBA games were the most-viewed programs on 11 of 14 nights among adults 18-49 and have produced 42 of the 50 largest sports audiences among adults 18-49 since June 20 and 13 of the 25 most-viewed telecast of any nature among that demographic.

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