SBD/May 22, 2013/Media

ABC, TNT, ESPN See Audience Decline For Coverage Of NBA Conference Semifinal Round

NBA conference semifinal games on ABC, TNT and ESPN saw ratings and viewership decline compared to the second round of the playoffs last year. ABC finished the second round with a 15% ratings drop and a 16% decline in viewers. The net carried two games from the Heat-Pacers Eastern Conference Semifinal series last year, but had no games from the Heat-Bulls series this year. ESPN saw its second-round average rating drop 16%, with viewership down 14%. The net's one game from the Heat-Bulls series (Game 3 on May 10) drew 6.6 million viewers, marking the most-viewed game for the NBA Playoffs to date and most-viewed sports program of any kind on cable TV since the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 17. ABC and ESPN’s combined second-round figures still rank tied for the second-best audience on record, behind only last year (tied with ’11). Meanwhile, TNT saw its conference semifinal rating drop 6%, with viewership down 7%. The net carried four of the five games from the Heat-Bulls series (5.3 million average viewers), but last year had better viewership for the Thunder-Lakers Western Conference Semifinal series (7.2 million viewers for four of five games). During the conference semifinals, TNT won the night among all cable nets when it aired an NBA Playoff game.

PLAYOFFS TO DATE: Each NBA national TV partner also is seeing a drop for the playoffs to date. ABC’s rating and viewership are both down 8%. ESPN is down 11% in rating and 10% in viewership. ESPN’s drop is on the heels of the net’s highest-rated NBA postseason on record. TNT’s average rating through round two is down 4%, with viewership down 8%. Despite the drops, NBA Playoff games continue to be the most-viewed telecasts on cable TV. For the week of May 6, when the Conference Semis began, NBA games were the six most-viewed telecasts on all of cable. For the week of May 13, NBA games occupied the top three spots on cable and seven of the top eight spots (TNT had top four most-viewed games). TNT has also ranked as cable TV's No. 1 network in primetime among viewers during the last three weeks. The net has also topped all cable nets among adults 25-54 and 18-49 during that time frame (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

AUDIENCE FOR NBA CONFERENCE SEMIFINAL GAMES
NET
GMS
RAT.
% +/-
VIEWERS (000)
% +/-
'12 GMS
ABC
4
3.4
-15.0%
5,184
-16.3%
4
TNT
13
3.3
-5.7%
4,985
-6.9%
12
ESPN
5
3.1
-16.2%
4,828
-13.7%
6
AUDIENCE FOR NBA PLAYOFFS THROUGH CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
NET
GMS
RAT.
% +/-
VIEWERS (000)
% +/-
'12 GMS
ABC
8
3.4
-8.1%
5,150
-8.2%
9
TNT
37
2.7
-3.6%
3,961
-8.0%
36
ESPN
14
2.4
-11.1%
3,732
-10.4%
14

MARKET WATCH: Former CBS Sports President Neal Pilson said, "If you're in the NBA offices right now, you're probably spending a lot of time praying that Miami gets to the finals. If we have Indianapolis against Memphis, it isn't going to be pretty." The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman wrote the NBA and ABC/ESPN are "likely pinning their hopes on a matchup between LeBron James and the Heat and Tim Duncan and Tony Parker of the Spurs." Still, the Spurs, Pacers and Grizzlies are "not exactly a dream ratings trio." ABC's regular-season NBA games "didn't feature any of them on a network broadcast all season" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/21).
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