ESPN Sees Double Digit Viewership Increases for “The Last Dance” Finale; Documentary Series Finishes with Average of 5.6 Million Viewers, The Most-Viewed Documentary Content on ESPN

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ESPN Sees Double Digit Viewership Increases for “The Last Dance” Finale; Documentary Series Finishes with Average of 5.6 Million Viewers, The Most-Viewed Documentary Content on ESPN

Episodes 9 and 10 Also Average 5.6 Million Viewers; Episode 9 Viewership Was Third Most-Watched of Any Single Episode

“The Last Dance” finished strong for its finale, with episodes 9 & 10 averaging 5.6 million viewers across ESPN and ESPN2. Episode 9 (9-10 p.m.) averaged 5.9 million viewers, up 10% from last Sunday, becoming the third most watched episode of the series, trailing the record-breaking audiences of episodes 1 and 3. Episode 10 (10-11 p.m.) averaged 5.4 million viewers, up 9.8% from last week’s episode 8, which aired in the same time slot.

The original airings of all ten episodes of the series also averaged 5.6 million viewers within the same day, cementing “The Last Dance” as the most-watched documentary content ever on ESPN. The series started strong on April 19th, with episodes 1 & 2 averaging 6.1 million viewers, becoming the two most-viewed original content broadcasts on ESPN Networks since 2004. Subsequent weeks continued the momentum, with episodes 3 & 4 averaging 5.9 million viewers, episodes 5 & 6 averaging 5.5 million viewers, and episodes 7 & 8 averaging 5.1 million viewers, all of which have become the most watched documentary content on ESPN, surpassing 2012’s “You Don’t Know Bo” (3.6 million).

“We are thrilled with the response from fans throughout the run of the series,” said Connor Schell, Executive Vice President, Content at ESPN. “The past five Sunday nights have brought fans together providing the type of communal viewing experience traditionally reserved for live sports. The exceptional content of the series has cut through culturally and sparked conversations far beyond ESPN platforms. We are grateful to Jason and his creative team and all of our production partners on the film and look forward to seeing fans continue to engage with ‘The Last Dance’ in the days and weeks ahead through the ESPN app.”

“The Last Dance” Original Airings
Episode Viewership*
Episode 1 (4/19, 9pm) 6,340,000
Episode 2 (4/19, 10pm) 5,792,000
Episode 3 (4/26, 9pm) 6,143,000
Episode 4 (4/26, 10pm) 5,657,000
Episode 5 (5/3, 9pm) 5,785,000
Episode 6 (5/3, 10pm) 5,214,000
Episode 7 (5/10, 9pm) 5,344,000
Episode 8 (5/10, 10pm) 4,918,000
Episode 9 (5/17, 9pm) 5,891,000
Episode 10 (5/17, 10pm) 5,400,000

*Viewership based on initial Nielsen reporting.

Time-shifted viewing has only increased viewership across the series, including nearly 15 million viewers for episode 1. A complete report will be released this week.

The top five metered markets for episodes 9 and 10 included: Chicago (12.5 rtg.), Greensboro, N.C. (5.5 rtg.), San Diego (5.1 rtg.), San Francisco-Oak-San Jose (4.8 rtg.), and Nashville (4.7 rtg.). As expected, Chicago was the #1 market, Chicago averaged a 12.0 metered market rating across the series, including a 12.5 rating on Sunday.

“The Last Dance” on social:

“The Last Dance” was a phenomenon on social media, becoming the #1 trending topic on Twitter for 5 straight Sundays. It was the #1 most social series on a per episode basis across TV year-to-date and was also among the top 10 primetime programs across TV overall, including sports events, award shows, and other series.

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Isabelle Lopez

Based in New York City, Isabelle Lopez is a Communications Manager for ESPN Films and Original Content. Her projects include the critically-acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series, ESPN Cover Story, and The ESPYS, among others.
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