[CNBC, GETTY IMAGES]
- The first two episodes of ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” chronicling Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls, drew an average of 6.1 million people on ESPN and ESPN2.
- The series was ESPN’s most watched documentary ever and most watched program since college football’s national championship game.
- Still, the documentary drew far less than a typical regular season NFL game, showcasing the value of live sports.
The first two episodes of ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” the documentary showcasing Michael Jordan’s last season with the National Basketball Association’s Chicago Bulls, averaged 6.1 million viewers Sunday night, ESPN said in a statement.
More people watched the first two episodes than any ESPN documentary ever, including the critically acclaimed “OJ: Made in America” series in 2016 and 2012′s “You Don’t Know Bo,” ESPN said in a statement. It’s also ESPN’s highest rated telecast since the College Football Playoff National Championship game in January.
Disney-owned ESPN moved up the 10-part documentary series to April from June after professional sports leagues postponed games en mass amid coronavirus concerns. The series will run each Sunday until May 17 and is available on Netflix for international audiences the following day.
“We were so thrilled with the response to the premiere of “The Last Dance,” saidConnor Schell, ESPN’s executive vice president of content. “Clearly, fans are craving high-quality sports content and we look forward to building upon the momentum in the coming weeks as the series continues to get better with each episode.”
Still, ratings were well below a typical ESPN “Monday Night Football” game, which averaged more than 12 million viewers a game this year, or a playoff NBA game, which can draw audiences of more than 10 million on ESPN. While 6.1 million people is a huge audience for previously recorded programming, which has become synonymous with streaming video services rather than cable television, it also showcases the value of live games.
Chicago had the highest TV rating (12.1) in an individual market, nearly doubling the next highest, Raleigh-Durham (6.5 rating). Jordan won six NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls and went to college at the University of North Carolina after growing up in Wilmington, North Carolina.
By Alex Sherman