SBD/Issue 163/Sports Media

Will Lack Of Star Power Mean The End To Spiking NBA Ratings?

ABC's coverage of Nets-Pistons Game One of the Eastern Conference finals yesterday from 1:30pm-4:15pm ET earned a 4.8/12 overnight Nielsen rating, a 269% increase when compared to ABC programming last year. ABC earned a 6.5/11 final rating for Thursday's Spurs-Lakers Game Six, marking the net's highest-rated NBA telecast of the season and a 67% increase when compared to ABC programming in the same time period a year ago. ABC is averaging a 5.2/12 for its five playoff games, a 158% increase from ABC programming in the same time periods in '02 (THE DAILY). Seven of the top 10 cable programs the week of May 5-11 were NBA playoff games (N.Y. TIMES, 5/19).

VIEW IT AND THEY'LL COME? As TNT has exclusive rights to the Mavericks-Spurs Western Conference final, and ESPN/ABC will televise the Nets-Pistons Eastern Conference final, USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke notes San Antonio's 4.0 playoff cable rating "nearly doubles" the 2.1 average of Nets' and Pistons' games on ESPN. Meanwhile, with ABC moving the NBA Finals tip-off time up nearly an hour to 8:30pm ET, Turner Sports President David Levy said that he would "look into earlier start times for the Western Finals than about 9:40pm ET for tonight's" Mavericks-Spurs Game One (USA TODAY, 5/19). While ratings for the Mavs-Spurs series "should be high" in TX, Mavs Owner Mark Cuban "has his doubts about how the rest of the nation will respond." Cuban: "It will be really interesting from an NBA perspective to see the impact in terms of ratings and what the league does to market it, considering there are issues there" (EXPRESS-NEWS, 5/19).

LACK OF STAR POWER: In DC, Michael Wilbon wrote the conference finals and NBA Finals "will be contested without its eight biggest stars." Wilbon: "When is the last time you saw somebody wearing a Tim Duncan jersey?" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/17). Also in DC, Tony Kornheiser: "All the charismatic players are gone. ... There are many more hardcore NBA fans who will watch the playoffs no matter which teams are in them. But the point of televising the playoffs is to grow new fans for the NBA." Duncan "has no particular sizzle. [Nets G Jason Kidd] has sizzle. But forgive me, it's impossible for him to overcome the fact that his uniform says `New Jersey' across the chest" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/19). In N.Y., William Rhoden: "For a viewing public used to an NBA with so many stars vying to be The Man, The One, The Answer, the transition to embracing faceless teams like the Pistons will be difficult" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/19).

PICK AND ROLL: In Sacramento, J. Freedom du Lac noted that with about six minutes left in last Thursday's Spurs-Lakers game, KXTV-ABC "cut away from the network broadcast ... to show the pregame portion of the local Kings telecast." The move "enraged local Lakers loyalists and also upset more than a few Kings fans who badly wanted to watch their archrivals' championship run come to an official close." From 7:15-7:30pm PT, Spurs-Lakers earned a 19.9 rating, and the start of Kings-Mavs from 7:30-7:45pm PT drew a 21.5 (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/17).

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