SBJ/June 18 - 24, 2001/This Weeks Issue

Arena crowds up, TV audiences down

The NBA may have shattered its playoff attendance record, but its overall playoff television ratings are down compared with last year as the league prepares to enter into negotiations for a new TV contract later this summer.

According to the NBA, the league broke its total playoff attendance record, set last year, after Game 4 of the NBA Finals last Wednesday, pushing its total to 1,438,744, or 12,238 more fans than last year. This year's playoffs were averaging 20,553 fans a game through Game 4.

Helping break the attendance record were first- and second-round ticket discounts offered by the Charlotte Hornets, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns.

While television ratings of the NBA Finals on NBC have increased this year compared with last year, overall playoff ratings have fallen. According to NBC, the first four games of the Finals generated a 15.1 rating this year, compared with a 13.3 rating last year. Overall playoff games this year had generated an average 5.7 rating on NBC, a drop of 4.9 percent from last year's playoffs. Turner Sports' playoff game broadcasts generated a 2.3 rating this year compared with last year's 2.8 mark.

That's not good news for the league, which has seen its ratings fall every year since Michael Jordan retired after the 1997-98 season. Come September, the NBA will enter a 30-day exclusive negotiating window with NBC and Turner for a new TV deal. The current contract expires at the end of next season.

While overall playoff ratings have dipped, the league's Internet traffic on nba.com has been on the rise. On June 7, the day after the first game of the NBA Finals, nba.com set a single-day record for traffic with nearly 1.2 million visitors. Through Game 3 of the finals, nba.com had more than 5 million visitors, a 40 percent increase over the first three games of last year's Finals.

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