Sunday night, ESPN premiered the first two episodes of The Last Dance, the documentary series about the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. This was a highly-anticipated release among sports fans and casual viewers alike, which was proven to be true by the numbers. The Last Dance officially became ESPN's most-watched documentary ever.
According an ESPN press release, The Last Dance averaged 6.1 million viewers for the first two episodes of the series across ESPN and ESPN2 from 9-11 p.m. ET. The main broadcast on ESPN averaged 5.3 million viewers. Additionally, the documentary series became the top trending topic on Twitter. Of the 30 trending topics on the social media platform, 25 were related to The Last Dance.
Prior to the premiere of the documentary series, the most-viewed original content broadcast was the 2012 film, You Don't Know Bo, which registered 3.6 million. The Last Dance was also the most-viewed ESPN telecast since the College Football Playoffs National Championship Game between the LSU Tigers and the Clemson Tigers. According to ESPN, the top five metered markets were Chicago (12.1 rating), Raleigh-Durham (6.5 rating), Norfolk (4.9 rating), Charlotte (4.7 rating) and Greensboro (4.7 rating).
The Last Dance was exceedingly popular on Sunday night as NBA fans began to relive Jordan's final season in Chicago. The end of the story is well known considering that this was the season in which the Hall of Famer won his sixth championship. The road to the finals, however, is less familiar for younger generations. Watching The Last Dance was an opportunity to learn more about this championship roster, as well as how Jordan could have ended up playing for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Only two episodes have aired, but the fans are already loving the series. Jordan played his entire career in the time prior to social media, so there weren't countless cell phone videos of his big plays. The numerous dunks and press conferences also weren't broadcast on Twitter like those featuring LeBron James or the late Kobe Bryant.
Of course, having The Last Dance set records for ESPN now sets higher expectations for the remaining episodes. There will be 10 in total, and they will air two at a time on Sunday nights. Will the remaining entries in the documentary series continue to break records, or will the numbers plateau? The answer is currently unknown, but it will be provided in the coming weeks.