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Volume 27 No. 5
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ESPN/ABC Hope To Post Big Numbers For NBA Games On Christmas Day

Celtics-Magic One Of Five NBA Games
Set To Air On Christmas Day

ESPN and ABC will air five live NBA games on Christmas Day, and ESPN Senior Dir of Programming & Acquisitions Doug White indicated that the league is "poised to attract a significant number of NBA fanatics and sports enthusiasts ... with matchups featuring some of the league's most popular teams," according to R. Thomas Umstead of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. White said, "We look at Christmas in very much the same vein as the NFL treats Thanksgiving. A lot of people are home that day relaxing and watching television, and we thought that would be a great time to provide great content for fans." The Heat will play the Lakers on ABC at 5:00pm ET in the marquee game, with Celtics-Magic leading into that at 2:30pm. ESPN will air Bulls-Knicks at 12:00pm, then a primetime doubleheader of Nuggets-Thunder and Trail Blazers-Warriors. White: "The game inventory was there so we were able to come up with some good matches. It's a great opportunity to get in front of fans and showcase the NBA." Umstead noted ESPN is "off to its best start since the 2003-04 season, averaging 2.09 million viewers through 26 games, an increase of 36% over the same period last year." White noted that traffic on ESPN.com's NBA page is "up 26% with page views and videos up 17% and 10% respectively" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 12/22).

BRUNCH AND BASKETBALL: On Long Island, Neil Best noted last year's Heat-Knicks game on Christmas Day "averaged 2.65 million viewers, ESPN's best regular-season NBA figure for 2009-10," and Saturday's Bulls-Knicks game "could do even better this year." White said, "From a viewership standpoint, it's a big game for us and a very lucrative window." Best wrote there is "nothing new about NBA games on Christmas," and there is "no denying the appeal of Saturday's slate." But he added of the noon tip, "Really? Just in the name of ratings? Humbug" (NEWSDAY, 12/21).

RATINGS UP FOR ESPN, TNT: The AP's Rachel Cohen noted television ratings for ESPN and TNT are "up more than 30 percent so far this season compared to last year." On the heels the Heat re-signing G Dwyane Wade and acquiring Fs LeBron James and Chris Bosh during the offseason, ESPN's five Heat broadcasts "have increased 69 percent from last season." With those games subtracted, the net "is still up 23 percent from a year ago." The success of "several prominent franchises have boosted viewership numbers" -- ESPN ratings are up 58% in L.A., 56% in Boston and 36% in N.Y. NBA Commissioner David Stern: "It's sort of all jelling in a way, and our broadcasters are reaping the benefits of it, which is terrific for us because they've made this huge investment in us over the years" (AP, 12/22).