In May, ESPN’s prime-time audience was up an eye-opening 31%, in large part because of the NBA Playoffs.
The network averaged 2,043,000 viewers (P2+), compared to 1,561,000 a year ago, according to Nielsen. All six key adult and male demos groups rose even more (from 36% to 39%, see chart below).
The prime-time viewership and each of the six key demos where at ESPN’s highest level in May since 2015.
Overall, the network’s audience rose 17%, from 618,000 to 720,000, with those six demo groups up from 12% to a high of 18%.
The increasing popularity of the compelling NBA Playoffs was the big force for ESPN in May. In the month, ESPN aired 10 games (including six of the seven Eastern Conference Final between Cleveland and Boston with one on ABC) and averaged 6,737,000 viewers, up +39% from May 2017 (4,851,000 viewers, nine games).
Overall, ESPN’s 19 NBA playoff games averaged 5,101,000 viewers, up 30% from 2017. It was the second-most watched NBA Playoffs ever on ESPN (back to 2003). The 2018 NBA Finals on ABC will tip off Thursday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET. The Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James will visit the Golden State Warriors, the fourth consecutive year these two teams have met for the NBA championship.
The late-night SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt was up 62% overall in May with all six key adult and male demos up more than 50%. The May 27 edition was the most-watched since Van Pelt assumed the anchor position in September 2015 (more than 4.2 million viewers).