NEW YORK (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, the Nielsen company said Tuesday. 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, Nielsen said. 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.
The NBA series also boosted ABC's Jimmy Kimmel, who records a show to air before each night's game in the East, and after the game out West. Thursday's episode, with Oprah Winfrey, drew an all-time best 4.8 million viewers for a Kimmel show.
For the week, the games helped ABC to an average of 10.5 million viewers in prime time. CBS and NBC were tied for second with 4.57 million viewers, Fox had 3.1 million, Univision had 2.6 million, Telemundo had 1.4 million, ION Television had 1.3 million and the CW had 900,000.
Fox News Channel was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 2.04 million viewers in prime time. HGTV had 1.56 million, TBS had 1.42 million, USA had 1.31 million and Disney had 1.3 million.
NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 7.9 million viewers. ABC's "World News" was second with 7.8 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.5 million viewers.
For the week of June 13-19, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NBA Finals Game 7: Cleveland at Golden State, ABC, 31.02 million viewers; "NBA Trophy Presentation," ABC, 27.77 million; NBA Finals, Game 6: Golden State at Cleveland, ABC, 20.7 million; NBA Finals, Game 5, Cleveland at Golden State, ABC, 20.54 million; "America's Got Talent" (Tuesday), NBC, 11.54 million; "Game of Thrones," HBO, 7.66 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 6.91 million; "NCIS," CBS, 6.88 million; "American Ninja Warrior," NBC; 6.84 million; "NCIS: New Orleans," CBS, 6.726 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.