SBD/October 27, 2010/Media

Heat-Celts Draws 5.6 Overnight, Expected To Be TNT's Best Opener

TNT Overnight Ratings Up 75% For James' Heat Debut

The highly anticipated regular-season debut of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh playing for the Heat will likely be TNT's most-viewed season-opening game in the 27 years Turner Sports has broadcast the NBA's Opening Night. Fast-national ratings will be released later today for the Heat-Celtics game, but the broadcast earned TNT a 5.6 overnight Nielsen rating, a jump of 75% from a 3.2 overnight for the Cavaliers-Celtics opener last year. The game also drew a 17.1 local rating in Boston and a 15.5 rating in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale. The Cleveland-Akron market finished third with a 10.4 local rating. TNT also aired Rockets-Lakers as the second half of a doubleheader, and that game drew a 3.5 overnight. That is up 40% from a 2.5 overnight for the comparative Clippers-Lakers game last year. In addition to setting a record for Heat-Celtics, TNT also expects the doubleheader will set a ratings record for the network to start an NBA season (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

EVENT UNLIKE ANY OTHER: In Boston, Chad Finn writes Heat-Celtics was "an event unlike any other in NBA regular-season history." The "size of the media horde was unprecedented, with the Celtics issuing 500 press credentials," and Celtics observers said that it "had the vibe of an NBA Finals game." Celtics TV analyst Tom Heinsohn: "You'd look around at this crowd and all the reporters, and you'd think a Game 7 was going on here tonight. If I've ever seen anything like this, I sure don't remember it." Finn writes the ratings for the game "will justify whatever you choose to call it: buzz, overkill, or simply the anticipation of an intriguing sporting event." And that "seemed to be the consensus among those covering it." ESPN Radio analyst Jack Ramsay: "I can't say the coverage makes sense, but I understand why it's happening." Finn writes the "hour at which it began happening was a bit much." ESPN's Rachel Nichols "filed her first report nearly seven hours before game time." ESPN's Jon Barry said that he "did his first hourly live cut-in" at 2:00pm ET, more than five hours before the game began (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/27). In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman wrote the morning shootaround yesterday "resembled the scene at an NBA Finals, with reporters surrounding" Wade, Bosh and coach Erik Spoelstra. Photographers were "requiring ladders to get clear shots" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 10/26).

BROADCASTING GUIDE: SI.com's Richard Deitsch offered his NBA Broadcasting Guide for the '10-11 season, where he noted ESPN's Hannah Storm "will share hosting responsibilities" with Stuart Scott "in the ever-changing world that is ESPN's studio show." The show "has improved over the years," as Barry and analyst Jalen Rose "come prepared and speak their mind." Analyst Michael Wilbon "offers thoughtfulness and smarts, though he's much more genuflecting of the league in this forum" than on "PTI." Scott and Storm "could learn from TNT's Ernie Johnson, who understands that an ego-free host whose first priority is setting up analysts is rewarded with viewer and critic loyalty." Deitsch wrote something to watch "will be whether ESPN can be critical" of James, who was the network's "business partner" for "The Decision." Former Suns President of Basketball Operations & GM Steve Kerr rejoins TNT this season, and his pairing with Marv Albert makes up a "terrific top team." The net's studio show has a "new studio for the first time in five years, as well as new graphics and new music." Deitsch wrote TNT "does basketball very well, but there's always room for improvement," and the net "would be wise to employ a former ref for part-time duty when the officiating becomes newsworthy, especially given the NBA's new crackdown on player complaints." Meanwhile, NBA TV's hiring of former ESPN host Matt Winer in January was an "excellent move." And while Deitsch appreciates announcer Rick Kamla's "enthusiasm for the league, there is a fine line between passion and a screaming, over-the-top, shtick-filled highlight reader who makes us want to change the dial" (SI.com, 10/26).

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Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, NBA, TBS/TNT

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