SBD/23/Sports Media

PLAYOFF RATINGS WATCH: NBA'S TOP MARKETS SIT AND WATCH

     With the Knicks, Bulls, Lakers and Suns out of the playoffs,
John Helyar writes in the WALL STREET JOURNAL that the loss of
the nation's top three media markets and another with a top star
-- Charles Barkley -- "may augur poorly for continued playoff
viewership."  The NBA's Final Four, ranked by media market:
Rockets (No. 11), Magic (No. 22), Pacers (No. 24), and Spurs (No.
39).  While Jerry Dominus, Senior Partner at J. Walter Thompson
USA, says those teams are "not exactly David Stern's dream team,"
NBC Sports spokesperson Ed Markey counters, "The idea that
ratings are driven by the size of market is a fallacy.  It's
really storyline-driven, personality-driven, quality-of-play
driven."  Helyar notes that the NBA "faces stiffer competition
from the NHL playoffs from here on out."  Fox will run the
Blackhawks-Canucks on Sunday, hoping to grab viewers from the No.
3 Chicago market (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/23).  In New York, Steve
Zipay writes that NBC is not worried.  "The worst-case Finals
would be Rockets-Pacers and 80 percent of the ads are already
sold for next season" (N.Y. NEWSDAY, 5/23).
     RATINGS CHECK:  The Knicks-Pacers Game 7 earned an 11.4/28
in overnights, with a 17.2/37 in New York and a 31.6/58 in
Indianapolis.  The Rangers-Flyers managed a 4.4/10 in New York
during the same period (N.Y. POST, 5/23).  Nationally, the NHL
got a 2.7 in overnights, up 17% from ABC's coverage last year
(Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 5/23).
     ANYTHING FOR FOX:  The NHL's remaining Western Conference
teams are "steaming over" the fact that they will have to play
back-to-back games in each city this weekend, so that both games
can be shown on Fox.  In order to show Sunday's Blackhawks-
Canucks game at 2pm CDT on Sunday, the teams have to fly out
immediately after Saturday's game in Vancouver (Mike Beamish,
VANCOUVER SUN, 5/23).
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