Ratings For 'The Last Dance' Destroy ESPN's Previous Record For Most Watched Documentary

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The Last Dance Ratings

The premier of ESPN's Michael Jordan documentary, The Last Dance, was as hyped as any sports documentary in history. Part of this is due to the mythical figure of Jordan and all of the never-before-seen footage of the Chicago Bulls' final championship season that was promised. Add that to the fact that all sports are on hold, and everyone couldn't have been more excited. From a pure viewing perspective, it delivered; entertaining tidbits of information were scattered throughout and Jordan's comments about being seen as a "horrible guy" started to make some sense.

The ratings are now in, and the numbers blew away just about everyone's wildest expectations. Per an ESPN press release:

"“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."


To support the network's statement on dominating social media:

As noted by ESPN, their previous high for viewership of a sports documentary was when 3.6 million folks tuned in to watch You Don't Know Bo in 2012, a documentary about Bo Jackson.The Last Dance nearly doubled that number.

This is an absolutely massive win for the network. Most predicted the numbers would be high, but even the most optimistic of projections wouldn't touch these numbers. It seems the decision to bump up the release of the documentary from June to April worked out, to say the least.

For perspective, ESPN's Monday Night Football coverage averaged 12.6 million viewers last year, making it the No. 1 show on cable. This isn't quite at that level, but the fact that a documentary drove this much viewership at a time when there's no sports is a huge win for ESPN's broadcast and advertising partners.

Now they will try and keep the momentum going next week.