ESPN Sees “The Last Dance” Audience Skyrocket with Time-Shifted/On-Demand Viewing; Now Averaging More than 12.8 Million Viewers per Episode, Up 128% from Premieres

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ESPN Sees “The Last Dance” Audience Skyrocket with Time-Shifted/On-Demand Viewing; Now Averaging More than 12.8 Million Viewers per Episode, Up 128% from Premieres

  • Episode 1 and 2 Average Audiences Now North of 15.3 Million Viewers; All Episode Audiences Will Continue to Grow
  • Superlatives For Premiere Audiences are Vast and Wide-Ranging
    • ESPN “Won the Night” Five Consecutive Sundays Across Key Demos
    • ESPN Programming Accounts for 12 of 13 Most-Watched Sports Shows in Past Two Months; All 10 Episodes of “TLD” Make the List
    • “The Last Dance” Drives Audience for SportsCenter, Social Shows and More

ESPN experienced significant audience increases for each episode of “The Last Dance” through time-shifted/on-demand viewing, as fans continue to consume the critically acclaimed 10-part documentary. Currently, the total average audience for all 10 episodes is 12,876,000 viewers (as of May 20, 2020), up 128% from the record-breaking 5.6 million viewers per episode, based on initial Nielsen reporting, the day following the premieres.

Each of the 10 episodes will continue to grow over time, as best demonstrated by Episodes 1 and 2, which now have an average audience of 15,339,000 and 15,590,000, respectively, up 142% and 169% from their premieres. Every episode has grown its audience by at least 122%, except Episodes 9 and 10, which premiered days ago (May 17, 2020). Trends dictate both episodes should see a similar result in short time.

“The Last Dance” Audience Growth through Time-Shifted/On-Demand Viewing

Episode Current Total Average Audience Original TV Audience Audience Growth 
No. 1 15,339,000 6,340,000 142%
No. 2 15,590,000 5,792,000 169%
No. 3 14,132,000 6,143,000 130%
No. 4 14,871,000 5,657,000 163%
No. 5 12,894,000 5,785,000 123%
No. 6 12,964,000 5,214,000 147%
No. 7 11,870,000 5,344,000 122%
No. 8 12,532,000 4,918,000 155%
No. 9  9,878,000 5,891,000 68%
No. 10  8,694,000 5,400,000 61%
AVERAGE 12,876,000 5,648,000 128%

Current total audience is as of Wednesday, May 20 and includes original airings, DVR, and re-air data from Nielsen. Additionally, internal video on demand streaming metrics are included

Premiere Episodes Deliver Results for ESPN
Focusing on the premiere episode audiences, “The Last Dance” has already established itself as ESPN’s most-watched documentary content ever. A closer examination shows the success is vast and wide-ranging:

  • ESPN “Won the Night” For Five Consecutive Sunday Nights Across Broadcast and Cable Television
    “The Last Dance”, collectively as a two-hour block, “won the night” all five nights it aired (April 19, 26, May 3, 10, 17), as the documentary scored the night’s highest ratings across all broadcast and cable networks in the key demos: Men 18-34, Men 18-49, Men 25-54, Persons 18-34, and Persons 18-49. Additionally, in those same demos, as well as Persons 25-54, the new episodes each Sunday were the two most-watched telecasts for that day.
  • 1 Program in America Among Key Demos Since March
    In addition to capturing key demos each Sunday night, “The Last Dance,” as a collective entity, is the No.1 program in television among Men 18-34, Men 18-49 and Men 25-54, regardless of night, since sports halted.
  • ESPN: No. 1 Cable Network among Key Women Demo Each Premiere Night
    ESPN was the top-rated cable network in primetime each of the five premiere nights among Women 18-49. Inclusive of broadcast television, ESPN was a top-three network among the demo each of the five premiere nights, including placing No. 1 or No. 2 four of the five nights. Across all ages, women comprised 34% of the premiere audience across the 10 episodes.
  • ESPN Programming Peppers Most-Watched Sports Programs Since March
    All 10 episodes rank in the top 13 most-watched sports shows, with ESPN programming accounting for 12 of the 13 shows on the list (including the first two nights of the NFL Draft) since March 13, the day sports halted,. Across sports and non-sports programming, The Last Dance also ranks as 10 of the 11 most-watched telecasts among the key 18-34 demo since mid-March.
  • Chicago Finishes with 12.0 Local Market Rating
    Across all episodes, Chicago led with a 12.0 rating. The complete top 10 local markets:
Rank Market Rating
1 Chicago 12.0
2 Raleigh-Durham 5.4
Greensboro-High Point 5.4
4 Birmingham 5.2
5 Richmond 4.9
6 Charlotte 4.4
7 Philadelphia 4.3
Washington, DC 4.3
Louisville 4.3
10 San Diego 4.2
Nashville 4.2


  • Everyone is Talking
    “The Last Dance” was a phenomenon on social media, becoming the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter for five straight Sundays. Additionally, the show garnered more social conversation on a per episode basis than any TV series this year.

“The Last Dance” Impact Spreads Across ESPN Properties

  • SportsCenter Sees Boost: SportsCenter with SVP followed each premiere block, with those five shows averaging 1,319,000 viewers per episode. Individually, all five Sunday shows rank in the 12 most-watched SportsCenter with SVP episodes in 2020.
  • Recap Draws Big Audience on Multiple Platforms: Jalen and Jacoby – The Aftershow delivered 9,800,000 total viewers across the five weeks (available on the ESPN App, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube). The same show then became ESPN’s No. 1 podcast in April, based on average downloads per episode.
  • Pre-Game Hype: The Facebook exclusive pre- and post-shows hosted by Sarah Spain and Cassidy Hubbarth had 2,600,000 total viewers across the five weeks, and the Instagram exclusive pre-show hosted by Common saw 1,000,000 total viewers.
  • The Last Game of The Last Dance: Game 6: The Movie averaged 608,000 viewers for its premiere on ESPN (May 20, at 9 p.m.). The unprecedented cinematic production of 1998 NBA Finals Game 6 featured exclusive, never-before-seen game footage captured by five different NBA Entertainment cameras.

“The Last Dance” Programming Continues
ABC will broadcast “The Last Dance” on Saturday nights over five weeks from May 23 through June 20, with two episodes airing each week at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET. In related programming Chicago Bulls programming, ESPN will air an encore presentation of Game 6: The Movie on Sunday, May 24, at 4:30 p.m.


Media contact: Derek Volner at 860-384-9986; [email protected] and @DerekVolner



Derek Volner

I currently lead ESPN’s NFL Communications, including Monday Night Football, NFL Draft and studio programming. Previously, I did the same for ESPN’s vast college football portfolio. I have been with ESPN since 2013.
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