SBD/May 3, 2011/Media

NBA Scores Ratings Gains For All TV Partners During First Round Of Playoffs

The first round of the NBA Playoffs saw big gains across each of the league's TV partners this year. ABC finished with a 3.5 rating and 5.6 million viewers for its four games during the first round, marking the net's highest-rated and most-viewed NBA opening-round coverage since a 4.0 rating and 5.795 million viewers for two games in '04. This year's figures are also up 25% and 31%, respectively, from five games last year. TNT's 23 games averaged a 2.7 U.S. rating and 4.2 million viewers, marking the highest-rated and most-viewed first round ever on cable. The net also delivered double-digit growth across all key adult and male demos, as well as among affluent homes. ESPN's eight games averaged a 2.3 U.S. rating and 3.7 million viewers, up 15% and 20.3%, respectively, from nine games last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes "brand-name NBA teams" like the Celtics, Lakers and Heat "can deliver big audiences." However, a "doomsday scenario" like a Grizzlies-Hawks Finals may not be a "disaster," as Sunday's Grizzlies-Thunder Western Conference Semifinal Game One drew a "respectable" 4.1 overnight rating. That mark is "up 52% from a Milwaukee Bucks-Atlanta game last year" (USA TODAY, 5/3).

'11 NBA PLAYOFFS: FIRST ROUND RATINGS, VIEWERSHIP
NET
GMS
RAT.
% +/-
VIEWERS (000)
% +/-
'10 GMS
ABC
4
3.5
25.0%
5,640
31.0%
5
TNT
23
2.7
28.6%
4,179
31.7%
23
ESPN
8
2.3
15.0%
3,667
20.3%
9
NBA TV
7
0.3
n/a
520
n/a
n/a
             

JUMPING OUT OF THE GATE: NBA Commissioner David Stern yesterday said of the first-round viewership figures, "We actually couldn't be more pleased. We're actually a little surprised, but pleasantly." He added, "I know it isn't league management that's responsible. I'm pretty sure it's the compelling stories the players have been delivering on the court." The AP's Rachel Cohen noted the "big jump came on top of already-strong ratings" for the regular season (AP, 5/2). In Denver, Dusty Saunders noted the NBA "could produce its highest TV ratings in recent history." Saunders: "This could be a vintage NBA season. ... You don't need a Ph.D. in Nielsen mathematics to understand playoff growth. Numerous first-round games were nail-biters" (DENVER POST, 5/2). YAHOO SPORTS' Kelly Dwyer wrote this was "easily the most competitive opening round of the playoffs since the NBA went to this format in 1984, and fans tuned in as a result." Also, "consider this a reflection of Turner's work with the NBA." Dwyer: "Other national broadcast units have come and gone over the last 25 years, but TNT has long been the go-to source for how to broadcast an NBA game, and viewers are tuning in by the millions to acknowledge that" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/2).

GOING DIGITAL: NBA Digital across its online and mobile platforms saw record-setting traffic during the first round. NBA.com saw more than 200 million videos viewed (+101%), over 7 million average daily unique visitors (+68%) and more than 600 million page views (+29%), according to league internal data and Omniture. The NBA Mobile GameTime app also had 360,000 downloads according to data across Apple, Google and Research In Motion. Additionally, the NBA section of ESPN.com logged more than 151.8 million page views (+51%) compared to last year. Total minutes in the NBA section were also up 35% while daily unique visitors were up 20%. The NBA section on ESPN Mobile logged 92.3 million page views, up 62%. ESPN3.com also generated 32.6 million minutes consumed, up 177% (Karp).

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