The opening weekend of the '11 NBA Playoffs saw overnight Nielsen ratings gains across ABC, ESPN and TNT compared to last season. ABC's Hornets-Lakers Western Conference First Round Game One yesterday afternoon led all weekend telecasts with a 4.6 overnight, up 12% from the comparable Lakers-Thunder Game One last year. The net's 76ers-Heat Eastern Conference First Round Game One on Saturday was up 18% compared to the Cavaliers-Bulls opener last year. ESPN saw gains for two of the net's three windows on Saturday, led by a 2.8 overnight for Pacers-Bulls (+56%). The net's only decline was for Hawks-Magic, which was down 14% compared to the Celtics-Heat opener last year. TNT also saw gains for two of its three NBA Playoff windows yesterday. Knicks-Celtics earned a 4.3 overnight, up 48% from Spurs-Mavericks last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
NBA PLAYOFFS OPENING WEEKEND OVERNIGHT RATINGS
WHAT MORE COULD YOU ASK FOR? In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes ABC, ESPN and TNT "could enjoy huge first-round success because for the first time in 21 years," teams from the five largest TV markets -- N.Y., L.A., Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas -- are in the playoffs. Boston is No. 7. The first games of all eight series aired nationally this weekend in their own time slots, and Saunders writes, "I can't recall the start of an NBA playoff season that was as organized as the one produced over the weekend" (DENVER POST, 4/18). Meanwhile, in L.A., Diane Pucin previewed the NBA playoff coverage under the header, "TNT And ESPN: Different Looks At The Same NBA Game." During the playoffs, ESPN's "highly orchestrated pregame, postgame and in-game NBA telecasts offer a whole lot of pro basketball." By comparison, TNT and its studio team of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley, its "sideline reports from Craig Sager and his kaleidoscopic jackets, its 'Gone Fishin'' graphics, offer a whole lot of laughs and goofs to make you wonder if any adults are in charge." NBA Entertainment Exec Producer Danny Meiseles "cited a record-setting number of 100 million unique viewers on all the networks (including NBA TV) this season as a sign that the partnership with ESPN/ABC, TNT and NBA TV is working." Pucin: "In the battle for the NBA, it's closer to a win-win" (L.A. TIMES, 4/17).
I DREAMED A STREAM: MULTICHANNEL NEWS' R. Thomas Umstead noted while Turner "has yet to announce which of TNT’s telecasts will feature the online multi-camera offering during the first round of the playoffs, network officials say the service will be in place for at least eight second-round games and all of TNT’s Eastern Conference finals telecasts." Now in its third season, the "online multi-camera feature averaged 277,000 streams over 12 games during the 2010 NBA playoffs" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 4/16).
NBC saw overnight ratings decline for the net's first telecasts of the '11 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. The net earned a 1.3 overnight rating for yesterday afternoon's Capitals-Rangers Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game Three, down 13% from a 1.5 rating for the comparable Red Wings-Coyotes Game Three last year. NBC also earned a 1.1 overnight for Coyotes-Red Wings Western Conference Quarterfinals Game Two on Saturday afternoon, down slightly from a 1.2 for Bruins-Sabres Game Two last year. Overnight ratings for games on Versus over the weekend were not available at presstime (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
UNDER REVIEW: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes NBC "has more NHL analysts than it has hockey to analyze," but if announcer Mike Emrick "were the voice of the National Knitting League, I'd watch." Meanwhile, Mushnick notes through the first two games of the Rangers-Capitals series, Verizon FiOS customers in the N.Y. market "were 'treated' to several extra seconds of local insert commercials, thus viewers lost live action after MSG resumed the game telecast" (N.Y. POST, 4/18).
There is “growing friction between” NBC Sports Chair Dick Ebersol and network execs as U.S. television networks “put the finishing touches on Olympic TV rights bids due next month,” according to sources cited by Claire Atkinson of the N.Y. POST. Ebersol is “trying to convince” NBC Universal President & CEO Steve Burke “that an outsized bid for the 2014 and 2016 Olympic games is worth it -- even if it means some red ink is spilled during each of the 17 days of programming.” Ebersol has “headed every US Olympics programming effort” since the ’00 Sydney Games, and every Summer Games TV effort since the ‘88 Seoul Games. NBC has admitted losing money on recent Olympics, and "that's something Comcast, NBC's new cost-conscious owners, are keen to avoid." Another issue “up for debate is when the events are broadcast.” Ebersol has been a "proponent of packaging sports and airing them as live in primetime to maximize ad revenue rather than broadcasting the moment they air.” Atkinson reports if NBC Universal “isn't victorious, some believe Ebersol will opt to retire” (N.Y. POST, 4/18).
Football announcers Bob Papa and Gus Johnson are "neck-and-neck" in a competition to be NFL Network's play-by-play announcer for next season "after both auditioned," according to sources cited by Phil Mushnick of the N.Y. POST. NFL Net reportedly had both Papa, whose two-year deal as NFL Net's play-by-play voice has expired, and Johnson "calling a game on tape" with Mike Mayock, who is said to be replacing both Joe Theismann and Matt Millen as game analyst. NFL Net "isn't expected to announce changes for a few weeks" (N.Y. POST, 4/16). However, Theismann said that he "hasn't been told he'll be dropped from the NFL Network's regular-season games." He said, "I don't know what's going to happen. ... This is a fickle business. Anything can happen" (USA TODAY, 4/18).
GOING ABOUT THIS THE WRONG WAY: SI.com's Peter King writes, "Papa's the ultimate solid play-by-play man, with strong lines and excellent set-up capability. ... It's downright foolish for NFL Network to be playing with his job by making him audition for it. Foolish. There's no other word" (SI.com, 4/18). In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote Papa "deserves better from NFL Network." That network execs "made Papa audition for a job he already had is an absolute disgrace" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/17). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes, "Removing Papa, who does an outstanding job, would be a mistake and a major disservice" to him (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 4/18).
The A's new flagship radio station, KBWF-FM, "switched Friday to an all-sports format, which assures the team better radio exposure than in past seasons," according to Joe Stiglich of the OAKLAND TRIBUNE. KBWF rebranded itself SportsRadio 95.7, a notable change from a "country music station that was basically shoehorning A's broadcasts into its music programming." KBWF also is the broadcast partner of the Sharks, and station owner Entercom Marketing Dir & VP Dwight Walker said that "programming will include substantial A's and Sharks talk but also discussion of the Bay Area's other teams." The station "hasn't hired on-air hosts yet or revealed its daily schedule." But the A's pregame show "has been expanded from 45 minutes to an hour, and Chris Townsend's postgame call-in show will last one hour, running longer some days." Stiglich noted "linking with an all-sports station is a score for the A's after years of being on stations either with weak signals or shaky financial situations" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 4/16). In S.F., Al Saracevic noted by "snagging the A's and Sharks game broadcasts, and retaining the current announcers," KBWF hopes to "draw listeners who feel those teams have been underserved by KNBR, which leans heavily in the direction of the 49ers and Giants." Walker said, "We love those teams and we feel they are underappreciated in this market." Asked if KBWF may be interested in acquiring rights to Stanford football, Walker said, "Pac-12 football is huge in the Bay Area. Stanford and Cal, absolutely" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/16).