The ongoing showdown between superstar small forwards LeBron James and Kevin Durant has taken the sports world by storm, and the ratings ABC is pulling in from the national obsession over the match-up point to the level of success the new era of the NBA could have in coming years.
This is only the first of what could be many Finals series between the Heat and the Thunder, but already ABC, which has held exclusive broadcast rights for the NBA Finals since 2003, is seeing its viewership records quickly being surpassed.
So far ratings for the 2012 NBA Finals are the highest ABC has notched since it began to carry the NBA Finals in 2003, so far bringing in an average of 16.0999 million viewers per game for an average rating of 9.7, up 7 percent from the 2011 NBA Finals' first three games rating of 9.1, accoridng to the Los Angeles Times.
Game 1 notched the highest Nielsen ratings of any NBA Finals Game 1 since 2002, while Game 2 brought in the best Nielsen ratings for a Finals Game 2 since 2004. Game 3 brought in 15.452 million viewers, earning an 8.8 rating.
One low point in the numbers is the fact that the first two games were significantly higher draws than the third. ESPN reported that an average of 11.8 percent more people tuned in to Game 1 and 2 together, while Game 3 brought that average down.
Either way, Durant and James are combining to be a boon for ABC at a time when many predicted that the network would see lower numbers from the NBA.
As the two superstars battle for supremacy in a league whose Western Conference Finals this year already saw a 16 percent overall increase in its viewership over the 2011 contest, millions more Americans are making sure to tune in.
The increased level of attention the NBA this postseason comes at the end of a period of labor disputes that led to a shortened season and which many league observers believed would lead people to be put off from the game.
As such, upcoming seasons could see even more interest in the NBA and the Finals, meaning that the new records at ABC could fall yet again in coming years, especially if Kevin Durant and LeBron James end up in a rematch series in the near future.
Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals will broadcast live from Miami on ABC tonight at 9 P.M. Eastern Standard Time.