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ABC finished with a 10.5 rating and 17.7 million viewers for the seven-game Heat-Spurs NBA Finals, up 4% and 5%, respectively, from last year’s six-game Heat-Thunder series. The final audience was also the best for an NBA Finals since a 10.6 rating and 18.1 million viewers for the seven-game Lakers-Celtics series in ’10. Heat-Spurs saw a mixed bag for ratings among key adult male demographics. Compared to Heat-Thunder in ’12, this year’s series saw ratings among males 18-34 drop 6%. Figures among males 18-49 were flat, while males 25-54 saw a 3% gain. The average age among all viewers for the NBA Finals -- male and female -- was 41 years of age. For the 85 NBA Playoffs games across ABC, TNT, ESPN, ESPN2 and NBA TV, the average audience was a 3.4 rating and 5.3 million viewers, down 6% in both metrics compared to last season’s 3.6 rating and 5.6 million viewers. However, the NBA Finals were a big boost. Heading into the Heat-Spurs series, the NBA Playoffs were down 16% in rating and 15% in viewership. The unique viewership for the NBA Finals, which includes those who watched at least six minutes of a game, was 85.2 million viewers, marking the second-best figure on record behind '10 (90.6 million viewers).NBA FINAL AUDIENCE TREND ON ABCYEARGMSRATINGVIEWERS (000)
MATCHUP'13710.517,667 Heat-Spurs'12510.116,855 Heat-Thunder'11610.117,280 Mavericks-Heat'10710.618,144 Lakers-Celtics'0958.414,347 Lakers-Magic'0869.314,941 Celtics-Lakers'0746.29,289 Spurs-Cavaliers'0668.512,972 Heat-Mavericks'0578.212,544 Spurs-Pistons'04511.517,942 Pistons-LakersAUDIENCE TREND FOR NBA FINALS GAME 7YEARNET MATCHUPRATINGVIEWERS (000)'13ABC Heat-Spurs15.326,319'10ABC Lakers-Celtics15.628,203'05ABC Spurs-Pistons11.918,997'94NBC Rockets-Knicks17.926,107
POSITION OF POWER: SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote the NBA is in a "great negotiation position with its television partners given the final ratings of this year's NBA Finals and having its transcendent player (LeBron James) under the age of 30." Both ESPN and Turner Sports "want to extend their relationship with the league, and Fox Sports also has plans to make a run at acquiring NBA television rights." ESPN execs both publicly and privately have "emphasized how important the NBA is to their programming." It would be "stunning to see ESPN get outbid for the NBA." The "battle will be between Turner and Fox, though the NBA should be happy with how Turner has promoted its product" (SI.com, 6/23).
CHEMISTRY LESSON? In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote if ESPN does "not want to totally blow up its 'NBA Countdown' studio show, the least it should do is dump Magic Johnson." His tenure on the show has "exposed him as an impediment -- a show stopper." Fellow co-hosts Michael Wilbon, Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons "did not turn in the kind of performance to make us forget the two guys (Jon Barry and Chris Broussard) whom the Bristol faculty ejected from 'Countdown' at season’s end." Wilbon is "steady but not spectacular," while Rose is "more about high volume than heavy insights." Simmons "often looks like he’s not even interested in participating in the conversation" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/23).
HELPING MAKE STRIDES IN CHINA: VARIETY's Clifford Coonan reported one of the biggest reasons for the NBA’s success in China "has been the way it has managed to access auds through the state broadcaster CCTV and other regional satellite stations." CCTV produced a "customized feed for all the NBA Finals games," plus "commentary and graphics in Mandarin." It also "captured footage for its weekly two-hour lifestyle show NBA Primetime." China’s Ningxia Satellite TV was "among the seven television and radio partners to air the NBA Finals for the first time." Fans also were "able to watch the Finals live online at Sina.com, which provided content and real-time fan interaction." The NBA has 58 million followers "on the league’s official Sina and Tencent microblog accounts." Meanwhile, China "sent 51 journalists to cover the NBA Finals" (VARIETY.com, 6/22).
Pro Football HOFer and Redskins radio analyst Sam Huff is "retiring from the team’s broadcasts" after 38 years, according to Paul Farhi of the WASHINGTON POST. The 78-year-old Huff "cut back his work as a color analyst last season, working only home games and the Redskins’ road games against the Giants and Cowboys." Red Zebra Broadcasting VP/Programming Chuck Sapienza, whose company owns ESPN 980 in DC, said that Huff this season will "step aside entirely from game coverage, but will be heard on the pregame show before some home games." Farhi reported Huff "won’t be replaced as the second analyst on games, leaving a two-man booth" of play-by-play announcer Larry Michael and analyst Sonny Jurgensen. Former NFLer Rick “Doc” Walker will "continue as a sideline analyst." Jurgensen, Huff and Frank Herzog in the '80s and '90s formed an on-air trio that was "almost as beloved as the Super Bowl-winning teams they broadcast." Red Zebra, which is owned by Redskins Owner Dan Snyder, has "used former Redskins such as Brian Mitchell as halftime commentators." Sapienza said that that practice "will continue, but details are still being finalized" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/22). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith noted the Redskins' playoff loss to the Seahawks last season was Huff's 770th game on the team's radio broadcasts. The Redskins said that they will "honor Huff for his radio work at a game this season" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 6/21).
NBC Sports has officially hired MLS Timbers and Fox Soccer play-by-play announcer John Strong to "succeed Arlo White as its lead voice" for MLS broadcasts, according to Jonathan Tannenwald of PHILLY.com. White will become the net's lead play-by-play voice for EPL coverage beginning in August. White and Strong worked together last night in Portland on NBC Sports Network's broadcast of Rapids-Timbers, with Strong "serving as desk host and White as play-by-play voice." White's final MLS game before returning to England will "be this coming Saturday at PPL Park when the Union host FC Dallas." Strong will "team up that night with Robbie Earle, his partner on Timbers local TV broadcasts since the team joined MLS in 2011." Earle has been "hired by NBC to serve as a studio analyst" on its EPL broadcasts. Strong's contract with NBC "runs through next season, which is the remainder of the network's deal with MLS." Timbers Owner Merritt Paulson yesterday via Twitter announced that "veteran American soccer voices Christian Miles and Jimmy Conrad will replace Strong and Earle as the Timbers' local broadcast crew" (PHILLY.com, 6/23). SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted Strong beginning next month will "call NBC's national MLS game through the rest of the season." His first game as NBC's official lead MLS broadcaster will be July 6 for Whitecaps-Sounders. Strong "called six MLS games for NBC Sports last year, mostly when White was at the London Olympics." NBC EPL studio analyst Robbie Mustoe will join Earle in contributing to MLS coverage "as game analysts beginning in July." Meanwhile, NBC MLS analyst Kyle Martino has been "assigned to the Premier League studio coverage working alongside studio host Rebecca Lowe" (SI.com, 6/23).
MOMENT OF PRIDE: In Portland, John Canzano, who was the best man in Strong's wedding, wrote to Timbers fans, "You've been here for the guy. You get to claim him. For maybe a little while longer, you know Strong better than people in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. And so when you tune in and see him making the national call, maybe you'll do it with a little extra pride. I know I will" (Portland OREGONIAN, 6/23).
The Orioles' TV ratings on MASN have "spiked" since the team "started playing never-say-die comeback baseball" during the second half of last season, according to David Zurawik of the Baltimore SUN. The team this season ranks fifth in local ratings among MLB teams and has had an 86% jump in ratings since '11. Those numbers "represent not only interest from fans, but also good business news" for the team-owned MASN and its advertisers. MASN Senior VP & General Sales Manager John McGuinness said, "O’s viewership was always respectable. But you could really begin to see the groundswell of support building steadily last season, and it has just kept growing. I would not be surprised to see our audience grow another 10 to 15 percent from now until the end of this season." Orioles telecasts in Baltimore were "No. 1 during the pull-out-all-the-stops May sweeps period." Advertisers "like the team’s overall youth and the sense of optimism it generates," and they "love the nail-biting, comeback wins that keep viewers tuned in for nine innings of action -- and commercials." MASN "wouldn’t release booking data or commercial rates, but inventory appears to be tightening." Baltimore-based ad buying firm GKV Communications Partner Kevin Kempske "sees the improved ratings already translating into advertising dollars for MASN." Though TV ratings have "grown in all segments, they are most marked among younger viewers." Meanwhile, the Orioles' "fervor extends to more page views for sports media and rising ratings for WBAL Radio during its Orioles broadcasts" (Baltimore SUN, 6/23).
BIRD SIGHTINGS: CSNBALTIMORE.com's Rich Dubroff noted Orioles 1B Chris Davis, SS J.J. Hardy, CF Adam Jones and RF Nick Markakis are all "leading their positions in All-Star Game voting." Orioles 3B Manny Machado and C Matt Wieters are "second at their positions." The "excellent results are due to the team’s outstanding performance over the last season-and-a-half and an effective marketing campaign by the team." The final voting and the reserves for the team will be announced on July 6 (CSNBALTIMORE.com, 6/23).
NBC earned a 4.0 overnight rating for the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Bruins in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday from 8:15-11:00pm ET, up 54% from a 2.6 overnight for Kings-Devils Game 5 last year. The game earned a 24.4 local rating in Boston, and a 22.1 local rating in Chicago (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes a "not-so-obvious reason" NBC and NBC Sports Network continue to set viewership records is that for the "first time in a long time, the Stanley Cup Finals did not go head-to-head on TV against the NBA Eastern and Western Conference finals." Because of the NHL lockout, Stanley Cup Final play "began later in the spring." The NHL "wisely" scheduled the Final so it would "not compete in time periods with the NBA Finals, which ended Thursday" (DENVER POST, 6/24).
BOWLING FOR SOUP: ESPN today announced a five-year media rights deal with the PBA, continuing a relationship that dates back to '79. Terms of the new deal have ESPN showing more hours (to 36 per year from 25.2), starting with the '13 World Series of Bowling. Former ESPN exec Len DeLuca of Len DeLuca & Associates served as the PBA's media advisor for this deal. ESPN says it was pleased with the performance during the inaugural season of the PBA League, which debuted in January and featured celebrity owners like Billie Jean King, Terrell Owens, Jerome Bettis and Chris Paul. ESPN has committed to carry the next season, which starts Jan. 5 (John Ourand, Staff Writer).
THE GRASS IS GREENER: REUTERS’ Keith Weir noted Wimbledon is “embracing new technology with an iPad app to appeal to a younger audience.” The app allows users to “navigate around the grounds via a photographic map, zooming in on specific courts to get updates on the state of play.” They also can “get alerts telling them how their favorite players are faring.” All England Club Commercial Dir Mick Desmond said, "If you can't come to Wimbledon, we want to try to make it the next best experience" (REUTERS, 6/21).