The decision to move up “The Last Dance” documentary from June to April during the quarantine worked out for ESPN.
On Sunday night the first two episodes averaged 6.1 million viewers which is the highest rating for a documentary on the network ever.
“The Last Dance” averaged 6.1 million viewers for episodes 1 and 2 across ESPN & ESPN2 from 9-11 p.m. ET. Of those 6.1 million, 3.5 million were in the 18-49 demo. Episode 1 (9-10 p.m.) averaged 6.3 million viewers and episode 2 (10-11 p.m.) averaged 5.8 million viewers. In addition to viewership, “The Last Dance” dominated the conversation on social media.
On ESPN alone, the two hours averaged 5.3 million viewers, with episode 1 delivering 5.7 million viewers and episode 2 delivering 5 million.
The premiere episodes rank as the two most-viewed original content broadcasts on ESPN Networks since 2004, surpassing the 2012 film “You Don’t Know Bo” (3.6 million). This year, it is also the most-viewed telecast on ESPN since the CFP National Championship Game. Additionally, “The Last Dance” ranks as the most-watched telecast among adults 18-34 and 18-49 since sports halted across broadcast and cable networks.
The top 5 metered markets ESPN and ESPN2 included: Chicago (12.1 rating), Raleigh-Durham (6.5 rating), Norfolk (4.9 rating), Charlotte (4.7 rating), Greensboro (4.7 rating).
“The Last Dance” ratings come at a time when ESPN saw their ratings fall nearly 60 percent in total viewers from last year due to the lack of live sports according to Bloomberg.
However, the pandemic is also changing the types of programs people watch. With live sports shut down, Disney’s ESPN has seen its prime-time audience tumble some 60%.
Cable news has scored huge gains, led by CNN’s more than doubling of viewers. Fox News programs accounted for all of the 35 most-watched prime-time shows on cable TV in the week ended April 13.
Considering the overwhelming praise from social media “The Last Dance” is surely going to bring the network strong ratings numbers.