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AIR WALKS: WHERE DOES JORDAN'S RETIREMENT LEAVE TV PARTNERS?
Published January 13, 1999
Michael Jordan's retirement from the NBA "will have sizable ramifications for the league, NBC and cable partner Turner," according to USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke. The timing of Jordan's retirement "could not have come at a more inopportune time," as league officials "hoped" Jordan's participation "could soften fans' bitterness" over the six- month NBA lockout. Nielsen ratings for Bulls games have rated 71% higher than other NBA telecasts. Media buyer Paul Schulman: "The NBA's ratings will be down 10%, a huge hit. They've not only lost Jordan but (also) the Chicago Bulls as their biggest draws." Grey Advertising's Jon Mandel: "The worst job in the business now is (NBC Sports President of Sales) Keith Turner's. How do you sell a 3 rating for $100,000 (a commercial)?" But Martzke writes that NBA ratings on NBC "don't figure to dip as low" as 3.0 after last year's 4.8 (USA TODAY, 1/13). NBC Sports Chair Dick Ebersol said he will be "surprised" if the Bulls are on NBC more than 5 or six times, "none of them nationally" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/13). Ebersol: "While no single player can replace the transcendent athlete of this decade, it will be exciting to see what players and what 'super teams' step into the stoplight for the fans to embrace" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/13). DAILY VARIETY's John Dempsey writes that NBC and Turner "could suffer dramatic erosion in viewership." A source said "the only way" the two networks could "approximate" last year's ratings is if free agents Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman re-sign with the Bulls (VARIETY, 1/13). MONEY MAN: In Toronto, Bulls games on TSN were "double the average" of other NBA games, and Game 6 of last season's NBA Eastern Conference Finals gave CTV a "record" 1 million viewers. CTV Sports VP Scott Moore, on Jordan: "He's helped make us a lot of money over the years" (TORONTO STAR, 1/13).