SBD/May 20, 2011/Media

Eastern Philosophy: TNT Sees Another Big Audience For Heat-Bulls Game Two

Heat-Bulls Game Two Up On TNT

Ratings for Game Two of Heat-Bulls series up 38.6% from Lakers-Suns last year

TNT earned a 6.1 U.S. rating and 10.0 million viewers for Wednesday's Heat-Bulls Eastern Conference Finals Game Two from 8:34-11:17pm ET. While Game Two did not top the 11.1 million viewers for Game One on Sunday night, the rating is up 38.6% from a 4.4 rating (7.0 million viewers) for the net’s Lakers-Suns Western Conference Finals Game Two last year. The telecast helped TNT out-deliver all of cable television, as well as the primetime average of CBS, ABC and NBC. Only Fox' "American Idol" beat the game in primetime (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In Miami, Barry Jackson notes the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals "drew two of the four largest audiences for a basketball game in cable TV history." Sunday's Game One had the largest viewing audience "for a basketball game on cable," while Game Two "ranked fourth" behind the '03 NBA All-Star Game and Game Three of the '09 Magic-Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals. Heat-Bulls Games One and Two earned 23.3 and 22.4 local ratings in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market. By comparison, Super Bowls "often draw in the high 30s locally, and Dolphins games averaged an 18.3 rating last season" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/20). In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal noted TNT averaged a 24.6 local rating in Chicago for Game Two, "consistent with" the 24.3 local rating the net earned for Game One. Game Two "easily trounced the next most-popular show;" "American Idol" averaged a 13.2 local rating in Chicago (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 5/19). Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 25.1 local rating in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night for Game One of the Thunder-Mavericks Western Conference Finals, marking a record-high rating in the market. The Thunder "broke its mark of 24.0 for Game 5 of Thunder-Grizzlies playoff series" on TNT (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 5/18).

REASONS FOR THE INCREASE: ESPN's Steve Bunin noted ratings for this postseason are "up about 30% from last year," and the increases come "despite the early elimination of perennial playoff staples" like the Celtics, Lakers and Spurs. ESPN.com's Jackie MacMullan said Heat F LeBron James "has a lot to do with" the increased ratings following his highly publicized offseason signing. There also are "still lots of big stars playing, guys that haven't won it before, and that's always attractive to the viewer." ESPN's Jalen Rose noted there is "more promotion" of the NBA than ever before. Rose: "We have social media. We have multiple media outlets to talk about basketball in a 24-hour, 365 cycle and the game is more exciting." He added, "Players have personality, they have style, they have flavor. They bring you into their world, so now the fans are intrigued to see them once they get on the floor." Daily Oklahoman columnist Jenni Carlson added, "It has a lot to do with the exposure and the personalities. I think these players have always had great personalities, but now you can follow Kevin Durant on Twitter. You can follow Russell Westbrook on Twitter. You can follow all of these guys around and feel like you know them more" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 5/19).

NO CONTEST: In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote the quality of Heat-Bulls is "killing" ESPN's coverage of the Thunder-Mavericks Western Conference Finals "from a TV production standpoint and an entertainment perspective." Engel: "That has everything to do with the on-air talent TNT has collected." TNT's studio team of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley "remains the very best because it is so loose, so unscripted, so honest, and so funny." On the other hand, ESPN's crew "just seems to try too hard" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 5/19).

TIME TO PLAY THE GAME: Game Three of the Heat-Bulls series is on Sunday, four days following Game Two. Barkley asked, "Why is Game Three on Sunday? Why is this stretched out and why aren't they playing every other night?" Barkley: "I think that's stupid. ... We just had the most-watched game in cable history, and then you go make the fans wait until Sunday. ... They should be playing Friday-Sunday because the thing that's stupid about it is they make you wait until Sunday. Then they play every other day after that. The players want to play every other day. This is unnecessary and I'm very disappointed" ("PTI," ESPN, 5/19).

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