SBJ/April 25 - May 1, 2011/Media

Networks: NBA postseason selling well

The red-hot ad sales market for live sports is continuing through the NBA postseason, even if the growth is slowing, according to the NBA’s TV partners.

Turner Sports has sold 90 percent of its NBA playoff advertising inventory while reporting a 6 percent increase in sales during the first round of the postseason. ESPN’s postseason ad sales also are pacing ahead of last year’s record-high year.

But the rate of growth has slowed compared with last year, when Turner reported a 26 percent rise in ad sales for the same period.

Turner executives said that last year brought the return of auto and financial categories spending with the NBA, which helped ramp up the increase in ad sales.

“The NBA marketplace continues to see significant demand as the first round of teams battle it out,” said Jon Diament, executive vice president of advertising sales and marketing for Turner Sports.

Turner stated that advertising sales for the highly rated 2010-11 regular season grew by 12 percent compared to an 11 percent growth in ad sales for the 2009-10 season over the 2008-09 season.

The NBA on Turner, ESPN and ABC generated record ratings this year and the viewership in early first-round playoff games reflected a similar trend.

The first five first-round playoff games on TNT this year generated a 2.8 U.S. rating (4.410 million total viewers). Those five games were up 27 percent compared to the 2.2 U.S. rating (3.403 million viewers) over TNT’s first five first-round games last year.

ESPN described its pricing as “healthy,” and said it has seen most interest from the autos, studios, restaurants and beer/wine categories. The interest follows ESPN and ABC’s highest-rated and most-viewed regular season, as ABC finished with a 3.0 rating and 5.110 million viewers for its 15 telecasts, and ESPN averaged a 1.5 U.S. rating (up 25 percent from last season) and 2.003 million viewers (up 29 percent) for its 73 games.

“We’ve seen a lot of momentum in this postseason, in part due to the buzz the league generated in the offseason with the free agency of several marquee players and a really strong regular season,” said Ed Erhardt, who heads up ESPN’s ad sales department. “We’re seeing several big-market teams with historical relevance performing well, which is always a win for advertisers looking to reach a large, passionate audience.”

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