“The Last Dance” Is Smashing ESPN Ratings Records

Director Jason Hehir‘s “The Last Dance” (10-part docuseries) continues to reach massive audiences, averaging 5.8 million viewers across premieres of its first six episodes, which is 62% more viewers than the next-closest documentary debut on ESPN (“You Don’t Know Bo” in 2012).

Quarantine has indeed propelled this doc to legendary status, with so many people forced to stay in the house and sports fans unable to watch any live action.

On Sunday, May 3rd, Episodes 5 and 6 averaged 5.5 million viewers across ESPN & ESPN2 from 9-11 p.m. ET, with episode 5 (9-10 p.m.) averaging 5.8 million viewers and episode 6 (10-11 p.m.) averaging 5.2 million viewers, based on initial Nielsen reporting.

Gen X, Millenials, Gen Z Flock To Jordan Doc

As part of its overall audience, the documentary continues to be consumed by the 18-49 demo in a significant manner. Among adults 18-49, episodes 5 and 6 averaged 2.9 million viewers, with episode 5 averaging 3.1 million viewers and episode 6 averaging 2.8 million viewers.

The audiences for the premieres only tell part of the story; a larger overall audience continues to consume the documentary through re-airs and on-demand viewing. After a record-setting initial audience, including all viewing, Episodes 1 and 2 now have an average minute audience of 13 million and 13.1 million, respectively, figures which represent more than a 100% increase from initial Nielsen reporting.

In less than one week, Episodes 3 and 4 have seen their audiences increase by 84% and 94%, respectively, from initial Nielsen reporting, now coming in at 11.3 million (Episode 3) and 10.9 million (Episode 4) viewers, both of which are higher figures than Episodes 1 and 2 reported a week after their initial airings. Additional reporting for episodes 5 and 6 will be available this week.

Top Markets

The top five metered markets for episodes 5 and 6 included: Chicago (11.4 rating), Greensboro (5.7), Raleigh-Durham (5.5 rating), Charlotte (4.7 rating) and San Diego (4.5 rating).

As a result of content featuring the New York Knicks, Madison Square Garden and Kobe Bryant, the New York (+11%) and LA (+12%) markets were both up double digits compared to episodes 1 through 4.

The Last Dance on Social Media

“The Last Dance” was the #1 most social Primetime program on all of television for the week with 3.9M interactions across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Episodes 5 and 6 also drove more social video views than the prior four episodes in the linear window, with 8 million total views, per Nielson Social Intelligence.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.