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NBA All-Star Game viewership falls 18% to 5.94m

Figures make this year’s event the least-watched All-Star Game in the last 31 years.

10 March 2021 Ed Dixon

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  • Last year’s All-Star Game had 7.28m viewers on TNT and TBS
  • Exhibition matchup was still the highest-rated NBA broadcast so far this season

This year’s National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star Game averaged a combined 5.94 million viewers across US networks TNT and TBS, a year-on-year (YoY) fall of 18 per cent, according to Nielsen data.

The figures also make the 2021 event the least-watched All-Star Game dating back to 1990. A rating of 3.1, down 24 per cent YoY, also makes it the lowest rated NBA All-Star Game over the last 31 years.

Despite the drop, this year’s All-Star Game still ranked as the highest-rated NBA broadcast of the season so far, eclipsing ESPN and ABC’s coverage of the Dallas Mavericks versus the Los Angeles Lakers. The Christmas Day matchup had a rating of 3.0, but did have a higher viewership than the All-Star Game.

In addition, the annual exhibition game, which saw Team LeBron defeat Team Durant 170-150, was the most-watched non-football sports broadcast since Major League Baseball's (MLB) 2020 World Series. The game eclipsed last month’s Daytona 500, which had 4.83 million viewers, and last November’s Masters, in which the golf major clocked up 5.59 million viewers.

Given the All-Star Game was not originally supposed to take place this season, it suffered from a lack of pre-event marketing in comparison to previous editions, with many players, including LeBron James, questioning its inclusion amid Covid-19.

Broken down, 4.66 million watched the All-Star Game on TNT, with 1.27 million tuning in on sister channel TBS. The game ranked second in primetime with adults aged from 18 to 49. It ranked first for adults aged 18 to 34.

The game also found itself up against Oprah Winfrey’s much-publicised interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on CBS, which averaged a whopping 17.81 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

The NBA can take comfort in the fact that the drop in viewership for this year’s All-Star Game was not as sharp as last season’s delayed NBA finals. Game six pulled in 5.6 million viewers as the Lakers clinched the title over the Miami Heat, down significantly from the 18.34 million for the 2019 equivalent game when the Toronto Raptors saw off the Golden State Warriors.

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