“The Last Dance” ends on strong note for ESPN

ESPN’s highly-acclaimed Michael Jordan-based documentary series The Last Dance ended on a strong note for the sports network over the weekend.

Episodes nine and 10 averaged 5.6 million viewers across ESPN and ESPN2, which represented a 10-per-cent rise over the previous weekend.

Episode nine averaged 5.89 million viewers, making it the third-most watched of the docuseries trailing only episode one (6.34 million) and episode three (6.14 million). Episode 10 averaged 5.40 million viewers.

The original airings of all 10 episodes of the series – which is centered on the final season of the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in 1997-98 – averaged 5.6 million same-day viewers, cementing The Last Dance’s place as the most-watched documentary content ever on ESPN.

The “30 for 30” documentary’s start date was moved up from June to April to help give sports fans some much-needed new content amid the competition shutdown enforced by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a move that has proven a resounding success.

“We are thrilled with the response from fans throughout the run of the series,” said Connor Schell, ESPN’s executive vice-president of content. “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 [Hehir, the director] 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.”

Chicago was the top local market for episodes nine and 10 with a 12.5 rating. The city where Jordan played the bulk of his career was, unsurprisingly, also the No. 1 market for the entire series with a 12.0 rating.

On social media, The Last Dance was extremely popular, becoming the number one trending topic on Twitter for  five straight Sundays.

The Last Dance has also drawn significant increased viewership via delayed and multi-platform viewing. According to ESPN, episode one has drawn nearly 15 million viewers since its premiere. Full details of the total viewership to date are expected to be released this week.

Netflix holds the international rights to the series. Reruns are available on both ESPN and the ESPN app in the US, while the series will also be aired on Netflix in the States in July.

ESPN is looking to continue its strong documentary-led ratings by pushing forward the release dates of three new “30 for 30” series about high-profile subjects over successive Sunday evenings.