NBA, NHL finals each enjoy higher ratings

ESPN NBA
ABC’s NBA Finals, with Mark Jackson, Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy (from left), were the most watched since 1998. (ESPN photo)

Even though neither the NBA Finals nor the Stanley Cup Final(s) went the distance (usually the barometer for TV ratings success), both championship series had great runs for the networks showing them.

Despite going only five games, the Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals averaged 20.4 million viewers on ABC, which is the best figure since the 1998 Jazz-Bulls series had 29 million for six games. This year’s Finals were up 1% over last year’s 20.2 million viewers. It’s also up 2% from the 2015 Finals’ 19.9 million. Golden State and Cleveland have faced each other in the Finals for the past three seasons.

ABC was quick to point out that when streaming numbers are added, this year’s series averaged 20.8 million viewers.

National Hockey League
With Mike Emrick calling the play, the Stanley Cup Final(s) were up 19% in viewership over last year. (NBC Sports Group photo)

Meanwhile, ratings for the Penguins-Predators Stanley Cup Final(s) averaged 4.7 million viewers and were up 19% from the 4 million for last season’s Penguins-Sharks series.

It’s notable to point out, however, that this year’s Final(s) are down 16% from the 5.6 million viewers for the 2015 Blackhawks-Lightning series and down 6% fro the Kings-Rangers series in 2014.

Back on the plus side, NBC notes the Penguins and Predators turned in the most watched Final(s) on record not involving an Original Six team.

OPEN SEASON

The 117th U.S. Open continues Friday with coverage from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fox Sports 1, then moving to the Fox broadcast network live to all time zones from 3 to 6 p.m. PDT.

Weekend coverage will be solely on Fox, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

Fox is in its third year of showing the U.S. Open and is starting to come into its own as a golf broadcaster. Not only is the tournament going to blanket Fox and FS1, originating more than 45 hours (24.5 on Fox) to it, its presence will even be felt on Fox Business Network. The financial channel will originate Mornings With Maria (Bartiromo) and Closing Bell With Liz Claman from Erin Hills Golf Club in Wisconsin.

COURAGEOUS

NBC will show Courageous, a one-hour documentary on Ted Turner’s quest to win the 1977 America’s Cup yachting title, at 11:30 a.m. PDT.

It’ll be shown right after the network’s broadcast of Races 1 and 2 of this year’s America’s Cup event from Bermuda’s Great Sound, which starts at 10.

Turner became obsessed with winning the Cup, much the way he did in running the Atlanta Braves, CNN, TBS, the Atlanta Hawks and the Goodwill Games. He was reprimanded in ’77 for taking over as manager of the Braves for one game when the team was mired in an 18-game losing streak.

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

Bill Russell will be honored at the first NBA Awards telecast — 6 p.m., Monday, June 26, TNT — with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Russell, 83, has won the Presidential Medal of Freedom and has been named as one of the top 50 players in NBA history. The NBA will give out all its season awards, including MVP, Rookie and Coach of the Year, on this inaugural show. … After his postseason analyst work for ESPN, SI.com reports the network would like to keep Paul Pierce full time for next season. … The College World Series starts at noon Saturday on ESPN with Cal State Fullerton taking on No. 1 Oregon State in the first game from Omaha, Neb. Game 2 at 5 p.m. on ESPN features Florida State vs. LSU. On Sunday, Texas A&M faces Louisville at 11 a.m. on ESPN and at 4 p.m. on ESPN2, TCU plays Florida. Dodgers fans will have Joe Davis the entire weekend when the team plays at Cincinnati. He doesn’t have a Fox assignment this week. Locally at 4 p.m. Saturday on KTTV (Channel 11), we will see the Angels and Royals with Kenny Albert and Eric Karros. Only 10% of the nation will see that game; 55% will see Cubs-Pirates and 34% will see Red Sox-Astros.

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