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The '11 NBA Playoffs on TNT last week helped the net earn its best week ever in total-day audience (24-hour basis) with an average of 1.7 million viewers. The network's first week of games averaged 4.3 million viewers (+39%) and also helped TNT see its best April ever. TNT also led all cable nets in primetime for the week with 3.5 million viewers, with the closest channel being USA Network with 2.8 million viewers. NBA TV has also averaged 466,000 viewers for its four NBA Playoff simulcasts through Monday. This year marks the first time the net has been Nielsen-rated for the playoffs, with each playoff broadcast airing up against a TNT game. Bulls-Pacers Game Three last Thursday has been NBA TV's most-viewed playoff game to date with 652,000 viewers. For comparison, Versus' non-exclusive coverage on the same night of the Bruins-Canadiens NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals averaged 599,000 viewers (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). CABLEFAX DAILY writes the "only thing that appears capable of halting the momentum of the NBA on TNT is the league itself," whose CBA expires June 30 (CABLEFAX DAILY, 4/27).
AND THE THUNDER ROLLED: In Oklahoma City, Mel Bracht noted TNT earned an 11.0 local rating on Monday night for Game Four of the Thunder-Nuggets NBA Western Conference First Round series, marking the best rating in the market for the series to date. Ratings in Oklahoma City through four games are "up 2 percent from the first four games" of the Lakers-Thunder series last year (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 4/26).
LIVING SOCIAL: ESPN.com's Maria Burns Ortiz wrote the NBA "has embraced social media in a way that perhaps no other sport has, making it an integral part of the league's day-to-day operations." At a time when the NBA is seeing record TV numbers, Ortiz noted it is no coincidence that the league has experienced "unprecedented growth among its social media platforms." The NBA "just surpassed 100 million combined followers and likes on Twitter and Facebook." Approximately "half of the NBA's players (220 and counting) are on Twitter, including almost all of the game's biggest stars." Ortiz noted that "from a daily social media strategy conference call to the final postgame tweet, these efforts seek to create what commissioner David Stern likes to refer to as a 'digital watercooler'" (ESPN.com, 4/25).
Tom Durkin, the "signature voice of American horse racing, will not call the Kentucky Derby or any other Triple Crown race this spring," as he announced yesterday that he is "not renewing his contract with NBC Sports," according to Joe Drape of the N.Y. TIMES. Durkin, who has called the Kentucky Derby 13 times and is "known for his ebullient and authoritative narration," said that he "made the decision after a year of reflection about the increasing performance anxiety he felt leading to the Derby" in '10. Durkin added that his "mental health was more important than his participation" in the broadcasts (N.Y. TIMES, 4/27). DAILY RACING FORM's David Grening noted NBC "has not officially announced a replacement for Durkin, though speculation centers" on Gulfstream Park and Monmouth Park track announcer Larry Collmus. Durkin "has called the last 30 Triple Crown races on network television." He will "continue to work as the announcer" at NYRA's three tracks -- Aqueduct Race Track, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Track, as he is "under contract with NYRA through the fall of 2015." NBC (DRF.com, 4/26).
The NFL has generated more than 140,000 downloads of its new iPad application, "NFL '11," since its release last week, and the product last night ranked third among all free iPad apps on iTunes. The app, the league's first tablet-optimized product with live video, represents a key portion of an overall digital media strategy for this weekend's NFL Draft that features a marked expansion in available mobile content compared to prior years. In addition to the iPad version of "NFL '11," the league yesterday released "NFL Mobile," an iPhone application positioned for customers of Verizon, the NFL's wireless sponsor, that will include live NFL Network video from the Draft, team-by-team trackers, war room coverage, news and other exclusive content. The mobile Web version of NFL.com has also been enlarged, and data and news-driven smartphone versions of "NFL '11" have also been released on the Android platform and on the iPhone for AT&T customers. "This is the fastest-growing area of content consumption that we're seeing," said NFL Senior VP/Media Strategy & Development Hans Schroeder. "This is somewhere we obviously need to be with a much wider footprint." Despite the ongoing NFL labor dispute, league officials said digital coverage of the Draft will be largely unaffected. "This is one area that will not be much different," Schroeder said. "[The labor situation] is really a separate set of issues. Fans still want to know what's happening with their teams, who they're picking, and the interest we're seeing already, particularly through the iPad downloads, is evidence of that. When it comes to the pure content creation side of this, it's very much business as usual."
In DC, Dan Steinberg reported former Redskins Exec VP/Football Operations Vinny Cerrato "has gotten a regular gig" with Baltimore's WJZ-FM. Multiple sources said that Cerrato "will join host Ken Weinman weekdays" from 8:00-10:00pm ET, and the two hours "will be all-football talk." Cerrato hosted "Inside the Red Zone" on ESPN Radio 980 DC while with the Redskins. He also "worked as an analyst for ESPN" between stints with the team (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 4/25).
DRAFT VOICES: Former Vikings coach Brad Childress during the NFL Draft "will offer his analysis" for CBSSports.com. Childress, anchor Jason Horowitz and CBS NFL analysts Dan Fouts and Randy Cross will appear "on a show that will be streamed live online" (AP, 4/25)....In Newark, Zach Berman profiled NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, the net's "face for all 254 picks" of the draft. The role "will be another phase in the evolution of a football junkie who grew from a coach's son studying high school schemes to a Giants safety playing under Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, to one of the pre-eminent names in football broadcasting." Mayock "works throughout the year for the three days this week at Radio City Music Hall, an experience sullied last season when Mayock lost his voice during the second day of the broadcast." He "vowed to conduct fewer interviews this week to preserve his vocal cords" (NJ.com, 4/26).
TUNA FLAVORED: Early feedback on Twitter for Bill Parcells’ NFL Draft special on ESPN last night has been almost unanimously positive. CSN New England’s Tom Curran last night wrote, “Bill Parcells killing it on ESPN Draft preview. Fascinating.” The South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Omar Kelly: “I will admit seeing Parcells' board did make me think about some things I hadn't considered, & that's the value he brings to a draft room.” The Miami Herald’s Ethan Skolnick joked, “That Bill Parcells guy sounded pretty smart. Dolphins ought to hire him, and give him a contract that allows him to bolt early” (TWITTER.com, 4/26).
TAKING THE REINS: espnW Editor-in-Chief Tina Johnson began her new role yesterday, and she said of her attraction to espnW, "I’ve been in and around the women’s marketplace for years and the idea of talking to women as sports fans and athletes seemed like a natural to me. No one else in the media is having that in-depth conversation with them and ESPN is in the ideal position to leverage that white space." Johnson added "like any new brand, our biggest challenge will be to establish a voice and content quality that’s unique, appealing and substantive." Johnson noted espnW will "feature extensive coverage of the upcoming Women’s World Cup." Johnson: "With ESPN focused on the U.S. women’s team, our content will center around the rest of the international field" (ESPNFRONTROW.com, 4/26).