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NBA Finals ratings dip for Game 1, as Canada sets records

By TIM REYNOLDSMay 31, 2019
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Toronto Raptors' Danny Green greets schoolchildren following a press conference at an NBA Cares event at the Jimmie Simpson Community Center in Toronto, Friday, May 31, 2019. The Raptors take on Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, leading the series 1-0. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto Raptors' Danny Green greets schoolchildren following a press conference at an NBA Cares event at the Jimmie Simpson Community Center in Toronto, Friday, May 31, 2019. The Raptors take on Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, leading the series 1-0. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO (AP) — The NBA correctly anticipated that television ratings would dip for Game 1 of the NBA Finals, for two very important reasons.

There’s no LeBron James.

And Canadian numbers don’t count.

ESPN said Friday that the Game 1 of the Toronto-Golden State series drew a 10.1 overnight rating, the lowest for Game 1 of a title series in a decade — though all the numbers come with a serious catch. Canadian viewership does not count toward the metered-market ratings formula used in the U.S., and it was the most-watched NBA game in Canada’s history.

“Put aside perception, there is the actuality of the ratings,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday. “Of course, I pay a lot of attention to those. I also pay a lot of attention to the numbers in Canada, where we set an all-time record for viewership. In the U.S., I recognize it’s a changing television marketplace. We knew we would be down a bit by virtue of both not having two U.S. markets and we’ve come off eight years of having LeBron James in the finals.”

Meanwhile, the first finals game for a Canadian team was a smash north of the border.

It was the most-watched NBA game on Sportsnet, reaching 7.4 million Canadians — basically 20 percent of the nation’s population. The average size of the Canadian audience, Sportsnet said, was 3.3 million viewers and peaked in the final minutes of the game with 4.1 million Canadians tuning in to see the finish.

Ratings throughout the playoffs have been down in the NBA, with James and the Los Angeles Lakers not making the playoffs surely a major factor.

“I’m not overly concerned,” Silver said about the current numbers. “But I’m certainly paying attention to it.”

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