Lakers losses make for TV ratings wins for ABC and ESPN

Pro basketball players sit on and stand next to their bench.
Lakers Dennis Schroder (17), left, and LeBron James (6) in the closing moments of their Game 3 loss to the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Western Conference Finals on May 20, 2023, at Arena.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
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The opening three games of the NBA Western Conference finals between the Lakers and Denver Nuggets swept the top three spots in the latest weekly prime-time ratings, with Saturday’s game drawing the largest audience for a Game 3 of an NBA conference final since 2011.

ABC’s coverage of Denver’s 119-108 victory averaged 8.384 million viewers, according to live-plus-same-day figures released Tuesday by Nielsen. ESPN carried the first two games of the series, with the Nuggets’ 108-103 Game 2 victory Thursday averaging 7.656 million viewers and their 132-126 Game 1 victory last Tuesday averaging 7.129 million.

The CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” was the only other prime-time program between May 15 and Sunday to average more than 7 million viewers, averaging 7.04 million viewers to finish fourth for the week.


The two-part sixth-season finale of CBS’ comedy “Young Sheldon” accounted for the week’s top two entertainment programs. The second part averaged 6.973 million viewers, fifth for the week and second among nonsports program, while the first part averaged 6.886 million viewers, sixth for the week and third among nonsports programs.

CBS also had the week’s most-watched drama, “NCIS,” seventh for the week and fourth among nonsports programs, averaging 6.656 million viewers.

CBS had six of the week’s top seven nonsports programs, making it the most-watched network for the 10th consecutive week, the 13th time in 14 weeks and 15th time in the last 17, averaging 4.6 million viewers.

ABC was second for the sixth consecutive week following four consecutive third-place finishes, averaging 4.29 million viewers. Its top nonsports program was “American Idol,” eighth for the week and fifth among nonsports programs, averaging 6.616 million viewers.

NBC was third among the broadcast networks for the sixth consecutive week after four consecutive second-place finishes, averaging 3.03 million viewers. “Chicago Fire” topped its ratings for the third consecutive week, averaging 6.021 million viewers, 12th overall and eighth among nonsports programs.

Fox averaged 1.98 million viewers. The procedural drama “9-1-1” was its top-ranked program, averaging 4.323 million viewers, 34th for the week and 27th among nonsports programming.


Each of the nine original episodes of “9-1-1” to air in 2023 have been Fox’s most-watched prime-time program of the week.

The CW averaged 290,000 viewers. Its biggest program was a rerun of the magic competition series “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” which averaged 533,000 viewers, 161st among broadcast programs. Its overall ranking was not available.

The top 20 prime-time programs consisted of six NBA playoff games — three on TNT, two on ESPN and one on ABC; six CBS scripted programs and “60 Minutes”; three episodes of “Jeopardy! Masters” and “American Idol” on ABC; and two NBC scripted series and its singing competition “The Voice.”

NBA playoff coverage made TNT the most-watched cable network for the fifth consecutive week, averaging 2.867 million viewers. ESPN was second for the fourth consecutive week, averaging 2.524 million.

Fox News Channel was first in prime time among cable news networks for the 118th consecutive week and third among cable networks for the fourth consecutive week, averaging 1.399 million viewers, 1.8% less than its 1.425-million average the previous week.

MSNBC was fourth among cable networks for the fifth consecutive week following third- and second-place finishes, averaging 1.092 million viewers, 3.1% less than its 1.127-million average the previous week.


CNN drew its smallest prime-time audience since May 2014, averaging 371,000 viewers, 46.1% less than the 689,000 viewers it averaged a week earlier when it aired a town hall with former President Donald Trump. CNN was again third among cable news networks and 16th among cable networks, 10 spots lower than the previous week.

The cable prime-time top 20 consisted of five NBA playoff games — three on TNT and two on ESPN; two “Inside the NBA Playoffs” studio shows on TNT; the NBA draft lottery and two “NBA Courtside” studio shows on ESPN; ESPN’s coverage of Game 7 of the second-round NHL playoff series between the Dallas Stars and Seattle Kraken; History’s “The Curse of Oak Island”; two MSNBC political talk shows — “The Rachel Maddow Show” and the May 15 edition of “The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell” that followed it; Fox Sports 1’s coverage of the NASCAR All-Star Race; three editions of the Fox News Channel political talk show “Hannity”; Bravo’s “Vanderpump Rules”; and the second of three hourlong segments of the USA Network’s “WWE Raw.”

Netflix’s top movie for the second consecutive week was the Jennifer Lopez-starring action thriller “The Mother,” with 94.42 million viewing hours in the first full week it was available, 12.8% more than the 83.71 million hours the previous week when it was available three days, according to figures from the streaming service.

The “Bridgerton” prequel “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” was Netflix’s most-streamed television program for the third consecutive week, with 82.39 million hours watched of its six episodes in their second full week of release, 48.1% less than the 158.68 million hours the previous week.