SBD/Issue 181/Sports Media

ESPN Banking On NBA Finals Reaching Their 9.0 Rating Guarantee

ESPN Guarantees 9.0 Rating
To Advertisers For NBA Finals

ESPN officials are banking that the marquee Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals matchup will hit their guarantee to advertisers of a 9.0 rating on ABC. Game One of the '09 Lakers-Magic Finals generated a 7.8 national rating and 13 million viewers, while the five-game series averaged a 8.4 rating and 14.3 million viewers. In '08, when the Celtics and Lakers last met in the Finals, the six-game series averaged a 9.3 rating with 14.9 million viewers. Game One two years ago drew a 8.7 rating and 13.3 million viewers (John Lombardo, SportsBusiness Journal). Meanwhile, ad sales for Celtics-Lakers are “outpacing last year’s championship series," as ESPN last week had sold “about 95 percent of its advertising inventory.” Each game has 60 advertising units and ESPN/ABC Sports Customer Marketing & Sales President Ed Erhardt said that “all but a handful of units are sold for the Finals.” Erhardt “would not disclose price information,” but a source said that the cost of a 30-second spot in the Finals is "roughly $400,000" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/31 issue).

GREAT MATCHUP FOR NBA, ABC: USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt writes the NBA "can't go wrong" with the Celtics-Lakers matchup, a "fail-safe series." The series is "good for business," as the presence of the two teams "should attract bigger TV audiences and ratings." The '08 Finals drew the "biggest TV ratings in the last five years." Meanwhile, ticket brokers indicated that tickets for the Finals are "drawing higher prices in the secondary resale market" (USA TODAY, 6/3). In Denver, Dusty Saunders wrote Celtics-Lakers "should deliver strong audience figures for ABC" (DENVER POST, 5/31). In L.A., Mark Heisler writes, "As if confirming that Lakers-Celtics matchups are a gift, the basketball gods knocked themselves out again, breathing life into the Celtics and healing the Lakers" (L.A. TIMES, 6/3).

COVERAGE PLANS: The Celtics-Lakers Finals will be televised in 215 countries and territories in 41 languages and streamed on NBA.com via NBA League Pass Broadband Int'l to more than 200 countries and territories. Forty-three broadcast partners will air the series for the first time and 20 partners will broadcast in HD. The Finals for the first time also will be available live in movie theaters throughout Mexico through a partnership with movie theater chain Cinepolis. Meanwhile, more than 280 int'l media members from 36 countries will attend Celtics-Lakers. A record 44 media members will attend from Spain, the home country of Lakers C Pau Gasol. There also will be representatives from the two largest papers in India and Ten Sports, the country's NBA TV partner (NBA). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes ABC's coverage of the Finals will include a "Hall of Fame" montage to "open each game; in-game interviews with coaches, along with each coach being 'wired' for sound; pregame and halftime locker room access; 32 high definition video sources; 'SkyCam' providing aerial views of the action; six Super Slo Mo cameras;" and ESPN Axis "creating virtual replays" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 6/3).

DON'T BE SO MODEST: In L.A., Diane Pucin notes ESPN/ABC NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy is "self-deprecating" when he "speaks about his broadcasting talents." Van Gundy "mocks his work on pregame set pieces, on the openings and closings," saying, "I'm just not good." But announcer Mike Breen, the "professional announcer of the threesome" that also includes analyst Mark Jackson, said that Van Gundy "doesn't get his own talent." Breen: "He's very good at all of it. He's very much a natural." Jackson added that Van Gundy is "as charmingly honest as TNT's Charles Barkley but with maybe a little better filter" (L.A. TIMES, 6/3). Van Gundy, when asked to "critique his skills as a game analyst," said, "I would say irritating to some. Irritating to myself sometimes. ... Because I don't have a background in broadcasting, I'm sort of unknowledgeable about when we have a good broadcast. I have not improved in that stuff you do at the start, the openings. That's still hard for me. Tried to get a little bit better at the highlights, when they come back with the replay." But Breen said, "I'm sorry, this is fake humility. I do agree with his assessment that he is irritating to some. I thought he was right on the money with that" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 6/3).

POOR TASTE: In Boston, Shanahan & Goldstein noted the L.A. Times Tuesday "pulled from its website" a column by KTLA-CW Senior Sports Producer Ted Green, a part-time contributor to LATimes.com. The column, "titled 'Your Guide to Hating the Celtics,' included this gem: '(Paul) Pierce's idea of a fun night is going clubbing and getting stabbed. Good times!'" Green later said, "That one was something I probably should apologize for. That one was not only too close to the line, but maybe over" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/2). Pierce in '00 was severely wounded after being stabbed multiple times in a Boston nightclub (THE DAILY).

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