AIR WALKS: WHERE DOES JORDAN'S RETIREMENT LEAVE TV PARTNERS?
Michael Jordan's retirement from the NBA "will have
sizable ramifications for the league, NBC and cable partner
Turner," according to USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke. The timing
of Jordan's retirement "could not have come at a more
inopportune time," as league officials "hoped" Jordan's
participation "could soften fans' bitterness" over the six-
month NBA lockout. Nielsen ratings for Bulls games have
rated 71% higher than other NBA telecasts. Media buyer Paul
Schulman: "The NBA's ratings will be down 10%, a huge hit.
They've not only lost Jordan but (also) the Chicago Bulls as
their biggest draws." Grey Advertising's Jon Mandel: "The
worst job in the business now is (NBC Sports President of
Sales) Keith Turner's. How do you sell a 3 rating for
$100,000 (a commercial)?" But Martzke writes that NBA
ratings on NBC "don't figure to dip as low" as 3.0 after
last year's 4.8 (USA TODAY, 1/13). NBC Sports Chair Dick
Ebersol said he will be "surprised" if the Bulls are on NBC
more than 5 or six times, "none of them nationally" (N.Y.
TIMES, 1/13). Ebersol: "While no single player can replace
the transcendent athlete of this decade, it will be exciting
to see what players and what 'super teams' step into the
stoplight for the fans to embrace" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/13).
DAILY VARIETY's John Dempsey writes that NBC and Turner
"could suffer dramatic erosion in viewership." A source
said "the only way" the two networks could "approximate"
last year's ratings is if free agents Scottie Pippen and
Dennis Rodman re-sign with the Bulls (VARIETY, 1/13).
MONEY MAN: In Toronto, Bulls games on TSN were "double
the average" of other NBA games, and Game 6 of last season's
NBA Eastern Conference Finals gave CTV a "record" 1 million
viewers. CTV Sports VP Scott Moore, on Jordan: "He's helped
make us a lot of money over the years" (TORONTO STAR, 1/13).