NBA Finals a Boon to ABC, Not Just Cleveland

by David Bauder, AP

It's not just the city of Cleveland that's happy with LeBron James and his comeback Cavaliers.

The seven-game series with the Golden State Warriors was the most-watched NBA Finals since 1998, the year Michael Jordan won the last of his six titles. Game 7 on Sunday, seen by 31 million viewers, was the most popular individual Finals game since Jordan's clincher — with 10 million more people watching than during any other playoff game this year.

It was a winner-take-all game for the NBA championship involving the league's two best players, and it went down to the last minute.

"I'm sure (ABC) wishes they were able to foresee that and price their ads accordingly," said Jon Swallen, chief research officer for Kantar Media.

The series as a whole averaged 20.2 million viewers. No NBA Finals that didn't involve Jordan has scored as high since 1989. The last time Cleveland was in the Finals, in 2007, the series averaged 9.3 million viewers.

Kantar Media estimates that ABC earned $295 million in advertising revenue from the seven-game series, or about $120 million more than if it had been a four-game sweep. While ABC still would have earned advertising revenue for entertainment programming if there weren't extra games, it wouldn't have been that much more, Swallen said.

ABC sets ad rates before the playoffs begin, with prices escalating if the Finals go to six or seven games. But since the network couldn't have predicted a finale that was the year's most popular program after the Super Bowl and the Oscars, Sunday's advertisers got a relative bargain, he said.

That includes ABC: an estimated 15 percent of Sunday's ads were touting upcoming ABC shows, and exposure before 31 million people can significantly boost awareness of the network's upcoming shows, he said.

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