Ratings for the NBA Finals have gone up this year, but not enough to outdo the viewership for the Euro 2020 final. While the ratings have improved from 2020’s bubble playoffs, the numbers have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels. By contrast, this year’s EURO Final enjoyed record ratings in the United States with almost 6.5 million viewers on ESPN and an additional 2.9 million viewers from Univision. When combined, this brings the average audience for the EURO Final to 9.4 million. On ABC, ESPN’s sister network, the NBA is registering slightly lower through Game 3 of the Finals.
Through its first three Finals games, the NBA averaged about 9 million viewers, up 33% from last year. While this is an improvement from 2020, the NBA is far from their 2019 finals viewership. When the Raptors beat the Warriors in 2019, viewership through Game 3 was up an average of 4.63 million. Moreover, the total viewership of the Finals in 2019 of 40.8 million dwarfs that of this year’s 26.95 million through three games.
Despite the lower-than-average ratings, the NBA Finals is a best of seven series. It is likely that if the series goes longer, the viewership will also rise. By comparison, the EURO Final is a single event. Average viewership of the EURO Final peaked during the shootout with 8,199,000 viewers on ESPN. Similarly, the NBA Finals should outpace EURO 2020 for more viewers as the series becomes more dramatic.
While the ratings for EURO 2020 do show an increased interest from the American people in European soccer, it would be reckless to assume it is a boon to the NBA’s viewership. The NBA Finals are a drawn-out spectacle, while the EURO Final is a phenomenon every 4 years. While it may not surpass basketball, it seems there’s a growing hunger for more soccer in the United States. Whether that will translate to support of domestic leagues, like the MLS, remains to be seen.