‘The Last Dance’ Remains A Ratings Slam Dunk For ESPN In Week 2 – Update

Dominic Patten

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UPDATED with Week 2 ratings: ESPN’s second night of its eight-part Michael Jordan docuseries The Last Dance drew a total of 5.9 million viewers across its third and fourth episodes Sunday, only a slight downtick from its premiere episodes last week.

Last night’s episode 3 from 9-10 PM ET averaged 6.1 million viewers, with episode 4 from 10-11 PM averaging 5.7 million, according to Nielsen, playing across ESPN and ESPN2. Overall, ESPN said that combined with last week’s premiere episodes, the series reps the four most-viewed original content broadcasts on ESPN networks since 2004.

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Per ESPN, last weekend’s first two episodes averaged an extra 3.2 million viewers in time-shifted and on-demand viewing, a 52% jump, to 9.23M viewers.

PREVIOUSLY, Week 1 ratings: A sport starved America showed up in droves last night for the debut of The Last Dance to see Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls aim for their sixth NBA championship over 20 years ago.

Leaving Oscar winner O.J.: Made in America in the dust, the opening two episodes of the 10-episode docuseries of the Bulls’ 1997-1998 season snared an average of 6.1 million viewers on ESPN and ESPN2 in its primetime premiere.

To put that slam dunk in context, not only is that a 79% increase over the ABC aired July 2016 start of the ESPN in-depth examination of the career and trial of Orenthal James Simpson, but is the best any original content on the Disney-owned sports cable nets has done since George W. Bush was POTUS back in 2004 and the best any documentary has ever done on the network.

With millions under stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic, the acclaimed Last Dance was always expected to do well for ESPN. However, moved ahead from its original June start date, the two-parter opener is the most watched program overall on the channel since the January 13 CFP National Championship between the Clemson Tigers and the winning LSU Tigers. That multi-channel college ball broadcast snared an audience of 25.5 million.

On ESPN and ESPN 2, Last Dance had an average of 6.3 million for its debut and 5.8 million for the second episode that directly followed. On the mothership channel, the Jason Herir helmed docuseries averaged 5.3 million viewers, with 5.7 million tuning in for episode 1 at 9 PM ET and 5 million watching episode 2 at 10 PM ET.

Perhaps even more important in this advertising clenched environment of COVID-19, Last Dance pulled in around 3.5 million in the vital 18-49 demographic – the most for anything on ESPN since all sports shut down last month around the world and on the small screen.

No surprise that in metered markets the former home of Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and the rest of that legendary Bulls team was tops watching Last Dance last night. Chicago had a 12.1 rating in the metric. The Windy City was followed by sports and MJ hot spots Raleigh-Durham (6.5 rating), Norfolk (4.9 rating), Charlotte (4.7 rating), and Greensboro (4.7 rating).

The Last Dance continues on the ESPN channels every Sunday until May 17. A co-production with Netflix, The Last Dance was shown on the streamer in the rest of the world. But, you know Netflix, they don’t put out their numbers usually, so we shouldn’t hold our breath on those results.

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