SBJ/20090126/This Week's News

Cavs boost NBA’s local TV ratings

A groundswell of television viewers in the Cleveland market is bearing witness to LeBron James and the Cavaliers so far this season. One of the league’s best teams, the Cavs have posted higher local ratings than any other NBA club for the first time in their 39-year history.

The team’s local Cleveland ratings have soared 130 percent on Fox Sports Ohio, posting a 7.7 average local cable rating through the first few months of the season.

That has helped fuel an overall increase in local regional sports network numbers, as on average, NBA teams have seen their local ratings climb by 11.7 percent, to a 2.4 rating, through Jan. 11,

“We are in a period of sustained success at a high level on the floor and our fan base has been energized on a regional basis,” said Cavaliers President Len Komoroski. “We are not in a growth [designated market area]. We aren’t Phoenix or Las Vegas, but we are the only NBA team in Ohio and we have a footprint of 15 million people who should be Cavs fans.”

LeBron James has led the Cavaliers to a
triple-digit increase in local cable ratings.

Steve Liverani, FSN Ohio’s outgoing senior vice president and general manager, said the strong ratings for the Cavs is the main reason his network’s ad sales have remained relatively flat so far this year, a good result for a city that has been hit harder by the economy than many others.

“It’s helped us open doors at a time when the economy is sliding the wrong way,” he said. “Holding steady is a good place to be.”

The good ratings have averted a potential ad sales disaster for the league, which started its season after the financial collapse in September.

“If you’re selling basketball in this country right now, there are very few RSNs that are doing great [with ad sales],” said Mike Wach, YES Network’s executive vice president of ad sales. “It’s just not an area right now that everyone is flocking to.”

Wach described YES’s ad sales around Nets programming as so-so, with ratings down slightly, from a 0.7 last year to a 0.6 this year.

Kyle Sherman, FSN’s executive vice president of ad sales, also subscribed to the new mantra that “flat is the new up” in the current recession.

“Overall, ad sales are holding steady, which is something of an achievement in the current economy,” he said.

This year, though, the good ratings news can be spread around. The NBA’s previous ratings champ, the San Antonio Spurs, have the league’s second-highest rating so far with a 5.8, a number that was 9.4 percent off of its mark in the first half of last season.

The league’s biggest ratings gainer so far is the New Orleans Hornets, whose local ratings are up 214 percent on Cox Sports. It posted a 2.6 rating so far this season, which is up from a 0.8 rating last year.

The news isn’t all good, though.

The Charlotte Bobcats and Los Angeles Clippers have the lowest local television viewership, with each posting a 0.5 rating. It should be noted that the Clippers, given the vast size of the Los Angeles market, draw more household viewers than teams in smaller markets such as the Bobcats.

Charlotte is in the first year of its deal with Fox Sports South. Last year, its games were on the Time Warner Cable channel News 14.

Ratings on NBA team RSNs have increased 11.7 percent compared with the same period last season.
Team RSN (No. of telecasts) Rating Change
Hawks Fox Sports Atlanta (17) 1.3 61.60%
  SportSouth (14) 1.5 48.40%
Celtics Comcast SportsNet New England (33) 3.7 2.20%
Bobcats SportSouth* (8) 0.5 -31.10%
  Fox Sports Carolinas* (18) 0.5 -21.00%
Bulls Comcast SportsNet Chicago (32) 2.6 22.60%
  Comcast SportsNet Chicago+ (1) 1.9 NA
Cavaliers Fox Sports Ohio (30) 7.7 130.30%
  Fox Sports Ohio/WUAB (2) 4.8 231.00%
Mavericks Fox Sports Dallas (20) 1.2 -34.30%
Nuggets Altitude (32) 2.2 -19.10%
  Altitude2 (4) 1.4 154.50%
Pistons Fox Sports Detroit (29) 3.9 -5.80%
  Fox Sports Detroit+ (4) 1.2 NA
Warriors Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (33) 1.5 -36.30%
  Comcast SportsNet Bay Area + (1) 1 -52.40%
Rockets Fox Sports Houston (29) 2.6 -9.30%
Pacers Fox Sports Indiana (33) 1.9 -10.30%
Clippers Fox Sports Prime (15) 0.5 -30.00%
  Fox Sports West (6) 0.6 54.20%
Lakers Fox Sports West (20) 4.2 23.50%
Grizzlies Fox Sports Memphis (22) 2 15.80%
  SportSouth (8) 1.6 NA
Heat Sun Sports (29) 2.2 11.20%
Bucks Fox Sports Wisconsin (34) 2.4 7.00%
Timberwolves Fox Sports Minnesota (14) 1.1 9.60%
Nets YES (37) 0.6 20.00%
Hornets Cox Sports (23) 2.6 214.30%
Knicks MSG (35) 1.2 3.60%
Magic Sun Sports (24) 1.6 -11.00%
  Fox Sports Florida (9) 0.8 212.20%
Thunder Fox Sports Oklahoma (29) 1.2 NA**
76ers Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (32) 1.5 9.80%
  CN8 (1) 1 -16.70%
Suns Fox Sports Arizona (12) 3.4 -28.40%
Trail Blazers Comcast SportsNet Northwest (23) 4 15.30%
Kings Comcast SportsNet California (31) 2.7 -7.40%
Spurs Fox Sports San Antonio (17) 5.8 -9.40%
Jazz Fox Sports Utah (31) 4.5 21.60%
Wizards Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic (25) 1.1 3.60%
  Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic+* (7) 0.6 67.50%

Editor's note: This chart is revised from the print edition.

NA: Not applicable
Note: Ratings through Jan. 11, 2009, compared with telecasts through Jan. 13, 2008. Comparable data for the Toronto Raptors was not available.
* Broadcast partner has changed since 2007-08 season
** Through the first 27 telecasts through a comparable time period last season, the Seattle SuperSonics had averaged a 1.36 on Fox Sports Northwest, 12.5 percent higher than the Thunder’s first 29 telecasts in 2008-09.
Source: SBJ research

Ratings winners and losers among NBA teams’ primary TV rights holders
Biggest increase Rating Change
Hornets Cox Sports (23) 2.6 214.30%
Cavaliers Fox Sports Ohio (30) 7.7 130.30%
Hawks Fox Sports Atlanta (17) 1.3 61.60%
Hawks SportSouth (14) 1.5 48.40%
Lakers Fox Sports West (20) 4.2 23.50%
Biggest decrease
Warriors Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (33) 1.5 -36.30%
Mavericks Fox Sports Dallas (20) 1.2 -34.30%
Clippers Fox Sports West (15) 0.5 -30.00%
Suns Fox Sports Arizona (12) 3.4 -28.40%
Bobcats Fox Sports Carolinas* (18) 0.5 -21.00%
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