SBD/June 4, 2013/Media

TNT Wins Primetime With 8.6 Overnight For Heat-Pacers Finale; Down From Heat-Celts

Each game of Heat-Pacers series was the highest-rated show in primetime
TNT earned an 8.6 overnight Nielsen rating for the Heat’s blowout win over the Pacers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last night. The rating is down 5.5% from ESPN’s Heat-Celtics Game 7 last year, which aired on a Saturday night, but marks the best NBA overnight on any net this season to date. Last season’s Eastern Conference Finals also involved a Boston media market with nearly 1.3 million more TV homes than the Indianapolis market. The Heat-Pacers telecast marked the highest-rated program of the night across all of TV and delivered TNT a win in primetime. TNT won the night among all nets each night it had an Eastern Conference Finals game this year. Last night’s game also earned a 37.1 rating in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market and a 21.9 rating in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, TNT’s “Inside the NBA” pregame show earned a 3.3 overnight, marking the program’s best rating since May 26, 2011. For the seven-game Heat-Pacers series, TNT averaged a 6.4 overnight rating. Last year, the net averaged a 5.8 overnight for six telecasts of the Thunder-Lakers Western Conference Finals (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

ALL THE TALK
: SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote ESPN's "NBA Countdown" is "not TNT's Inside The NBA, which remains the Lionel Messi of the sports studio show genre: singular, improvisational genius that cannot be duplicated." The comparisons between the two shows "will always be one sided." TNT's Charles Barkley "might be the only person in sports television who draws viewers merely on the possibility of what he might say." Likewise, the "chemistry between him and longtime colleagues Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson wasn't drawn up in some executive suite." It "happened organically and was nurtured by time." But ESPN's show has "improved on its own merit this season with a foursome (Michael Wilbon, Magic Johnson, Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons) that harmonizes much better than last year's quartet." Simmons said, "I got better at TV as the season went along and I think that helped us too. I had only done like 15 PTI's before I started doing this show. ... So this was like going to grad school for how to be on TV." "NBA Countdown" Coordinating Producer Amina Hussein, who is also in her first season with the show, said, "I think we had to work on chemistry and obviously that takes time. But we are hitting our stride at the right time." However, the ESPN show "lacks daring and spontaneity." It is "highly formatted -- too often it seems the reps for each person have to be equal -- and it's hurt by a 30-minute duration compared to Inside The NBA's 60-minute-plus postgame show." Simmons said, "I'd like to see us take more chances." ESPN execs are "pleased with Countdown but as senior management are wont to do, they offered no confirmation on whether the same on-air talent would appear next season" (SI.com, 6/2).

READY TO POP OFF: ESPN’s Doris Burke, who will serve as the sideline reporter for ESPN/ABC's coverage of the Finals, said there is "no coach in the league … where I feel more angst" for conducting an in-game interview than with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. She noted it is "blatantly obvious how much he objects to it," as he "wants to be in the huddle with his team." However, it is "not optional for him." Burke: "It's not optional for us either. If he doesn’t want to do it, he has to effort that kind of change with the league. We’re going in whether he wants to do it or not.” She said she has tried "very hard not to take his reactions personally," but adds it is "not easy.” Burke said of in-game interviews, “There are times where we get great answers. What the percentage is relative to poor answers or pat answers, I don’t know. I will say this: I know that ESPN is very proactive in terms of focus groups. They are constantly asking viewers about what they like and don’t like. My sense is the in-game interviews get some positive feedback. Otherwise, they would serve no purpose” (SHERMANREPORT.com, 6/4).

STICK TO SPORTS: In Boston, Chad Finn noted Simmons last week on a podcast mentioned a "bizarre and ill-considered theory on how the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis related to the way Grizzlies fans react to their team." The comments were "clumsy and inappropriate," and it is "beyond absurd to connect a culture-altering national tragedy to Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference finals 45 years later." Simmons "continues to do excellent work over a variety of platforms, the podcast usually included," but he "might be wise to take a lesson from this and resist any desire to attach cultural meaning to a sporting event in a city that is not particularly familiar to him" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/1).

RADIO DAZE: In N.Y., Bob Raissman noted Pacers C Roy Hibbert "got no slack" from ESPN Radio hosts following his gay slur after Heat-Pacers Game 6. The tone "was one of anger and outrage, especially from hosts Freddie Coleman and Joe DeCamara." They played the Hibbert audio "over and over and over again." And while ESPN brass "had no problem" letting Stephen A. Smith defend Hibbert, "it made sure 'no homo' was bleeped every time the Hibbert audio aired" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/4).
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