Fox’s “The Masked Singer” was the highest-rated entertainment program for the week.(Michael Becker / Fox)
The NBA Finals drew record-low viewership facing unprecedented sports competition because of its shift to the fall, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the one-sided nature of the games.
ABC’s coverage of the Los Angeles Lakers’ six-game victory over the Miami Heat averaged 7.487 million viewers, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen on Tuesday. The previous low was the 9.29-million average for the San Antonio Spurs’ four-game sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 finals.
Each of the first four games averaged fewer viewers than any finals game on record before this year. Records are available dating back to 1988.
The closest game of the series was also the most-watched. The Lakers’ 111-108 loss in Game 5 Friday averaged 8.89 million viewers, 10th among prime-time broadcast and cable programs airing between Oct. 5 and Sunday.
The Lakers’ series-clinching 106-93 victory in Game 6 Sunday, which aired mostly opposite NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” averaged 8.291 million viewers, 13th for the week.
The 28-point lead at halftime was the second-largest of an NBA Finals game, behind only the Lakers’ 30-point deficit to the Celtics in Game 1 of the 1985 Finals, known as the Memorial Day Massacre.
The Lakers held a 32-point lead in the third quarter of Game 1 on Sept. 30; that game averaged a record-low 7.576 million viewers. The record was erased two days later by the 6.909-million average for Game 2, and by Game 3 two days after that, which averaged 5.935 million. All but the two Sunday games were the highest-rated programs of their nights.
Fox’s “Thursday Night Football” handed “Sunday Night Football” a rare loss in the race to be the week’s top-rated program. The Chicago Bears’ 20-19 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Fox averaged 15.117 million, while the Seattle Seahawks’ 27-26 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on NBC averaged 15.08 million.
CBS’ first Monday night NFL telecast since 1969 was a close third, with the Kansas City Chiefs’ 26-10 victory over the New England Patriots averaging 14.703 million viewers.
Fox’s “The Masked Singer” was the most-watched prime-time entertainment program for the second consecutive week, averaging 6.014 million viewers, 25th overall, one spot ahead of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” which averaged 5.892 million.
CBS’ Monday night football game, its Sunday NFL runover and “60 Minutes” helped the network edge ABC, 5.77 million to 5.73 million, to be the most-watched network. NBC was third, averaging 4.86 million, and Fox News Channel averaged 4.415 million. All four networks aired 22 hours of prime-time programming.
Fox averaged 4.27 million viewers for its 16 hours, 39 minutes of prime-time programming.
CBS averaged 26.081 million viewers for its 49-minute runover of its afternoon NFL coverage into prime time in the Eastern and Central time zones. The runover is not considered a separate program but is included in the weekly average.
The CBS News magazine “60 Minutes” had the week’s biggest audience for a non-NFL program, averaging 12.041 million viewers.
Fox News Channel was the highest-rated cable network for the 37th time in 38 weeks, averaging 4.415 million viewers. MSNBC was second, averaging 2.75 million, and CNN third, averaging 2.59 million.
There were 11.943 million viewers watching the vice presidential debate on Fox News Channel, more than any other cable or broadcast source.
Overall the debate between Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris last Wednesday averaged 57.9 million viewers on 18 broadcast and cable networks, the second-most for a vice presidential debate, trailing only the 2008 debate between then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and then-Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, which averaged 69.9 million viewers.
Netflix’s “Cobra Kai” was the most-streamed program for the second consecutive week, according to Nielsen’s latest streaming report released Thursday, with viewers watching 1.655 million minutes of the 20 episodes of the sequel to the 1984 film “The Karate Kid” from Sept. 7-13.
Netflix’s science fiction drama “Away” was second, with viewers watching 1.366 million minutes.
The streaming report covers programming on Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu and Netflix.