TNT has averaged 4.8 million viewers through the first two rounds of the NBA Playoffs, putting the net on pace for the most-viewed NBA postseason in cable TV history. The net's viewership through the second round (35 games) was up 33% from an average of 3.6 million viewers last year (33 telecasts). TNT topped all networks, broadcast and cable, among males 18-34 during its six nights of primetime games in the Conference Semifinals. ABC has averaged 6.8 million viewers for its nine telecasts to date, marking the net's second-best NBA Playoff audience through two rounds since the start of the TV deal prior to the '02-03 season. ABC is also up 28.5% from 5.3 million viewers through nine postseason telecasts last year. ESPN also saw gains through two rounds of postseason play. The net averaged 4.2 million viewers for 13 telecasts, up 16% from 14 telecasts last year.
NBA PLAYOFF VIEWERSHIP THROUGH CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
SPECIFIC HEAT: TNT earned a 6.2 U.S. rating and 11.1 million viewers for Game One of the Heat-Bulls Eastern Conference Finals Sunday night, marking the most-viewed NBA game ever on cable TV. The audience for the telecast tops the previous record of 10.8 million viewers set during the net's broadcast of the '03 All-Star Game, which was the last one to include Michael Jordan. Heat-Bulls is also up 41% and 56%, respectively, from the net's comparable Lakers-Suns Western Conference Finals Game One last year, which aired on a Monday night (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In Houston, Jonathan Feigen wrote ratings "have been setting records" because fans "seem to find the world a better place when the Heat lose, and they can't stop watching when they win" (CHRON.com, 5/16).
THUNDER STRUCK? ABC averaged 7.1 million viewers for Sunday's Thunder-Grizzlies Western Conference Semifinals Game Seven, up 1.6% from the comparable Game One of Celtics-Magic Eastern Conference Finals last year. But USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand wonders if the Thunder can "sell nationally" in the Western Conference Finals, which begin tonight against the Mavericks on ESPN. Postseason ratings "hinge on drawing casual fans who might not otherwise follow the sport" (USA TODAY, 5/17). In Oklahoma City, Mel Bracht notes KOCO-ABC earned a 23.4 local rating for the Thunder-Grizzlies game, "highest-rated NBA game on ABC" in the market (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 5/17).
The Buccaneers revealed yesterday that they have "opted to decline an invitation to appear" on HBO's "Hard Knocks" this year, according to Stephen Holder of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. In announcing their decision, the Bucs in a statement said they want to "keep the focus on the field and what we hope to accomplish in 2011." Team officials told the NFL that they "would consider doing the show at another time if approached again" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/17). ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas noted "as far back as March, the Bucs were considered to be a strong candidate to be profiled in the annual reality show that provides an in-depth look at a team during training camp." The Bucs, who failed to sell out a home game last season, "pondered how the exposure on 'Hard Knocks' might help them" (ESPN.com, 5/16). Yasinskas wrote turning down "Hard Knocks" is the "right call because the Bucs do need to stay focused on the field right now." They are a "team that seems to be on the rise after last season’s 10-6 record," but are "not a finished product yet." Yasinskas: "Maybe in a year or two, 'Hard Knocks' will work for the Bucs" (ESPN.com, 5/16).
BAY WINDOW? ESPN.com's Bill Williamson noted the Raiders earlier this year reportedly were "one of seven teams HBO was considering" for this year's version of "Hard Knocks." But fans should not "expect it to happen." The Raiders are an "intensely private team," the only NFL franchise with a "closed training camp." Williamson: "I don’t see the Raiders suddenly changing course and allowing a slew of cameras to take over their camp" (ESPN.com, 5/16). Meanwhile, HBO drew critical praise for last year's edition that featured the Jets, and ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said of the show, "It's very intrusive. Rex Ryan and the Jets should do it every year" ("PTI," ESPN, 5/16).
In the latest entry for ESPN as part of the Poynter Review Project, Poynter faculty Regina McCombs and Kelly McBride noted less than three hours after incoming Univ. of Alabama football player Aaron Douglas was reported dead last week, ESPN Insider's Rumor Central "published a short item titled 'Shocker at LT' with news of the death, and speculation on the implications for the Crimson Tide’s lineup." Within 30 minutes, ESPN Insider editors "reviewed and removed the post." But the "important question is: How does something like this make it on the Insider site?" Insider writers, "mostly freelancers, craft the RC items and post them directly to the site." ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Insider General Editor Chris Sprow said that the posted item then is "sent to other Insider editors, who review the items and make any requisite changes." In the case of the Douglas post, the copy editor "who read it Thursday morning was uncomfortable with the tone and brought it to the attention of Sprow, who then quickly pulled it off the site." The post was live for about 20 minutes, and "later in the afternoon, an apology appeared on the site." ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Insider Exec Editor & Exec Producer Robbyn Footlick said despite posts going live before they’ve been edited, "you can count on one hand the problems that we’ve had." Footlick argued that this one "was the equivalent of accidentally swearing on air." She added, "The good news is that what we can do, and what we do do, is apologize for it and move on." But McCombs & McBride wrote, "We disagree. Apologizing and moving on isn’t enough. Fans who wrote into the mailbag were outraged. ... Perhaps Rumor Central should consider a two-tiered system, where most items go live without editing, but sensitive posts receive extra attention before they hit the site" (ESPN.com, 5/16).
Showtime's "Super Six" super-middleweight boxing tournament, "beset by injuries, withdrawals and controversy," has experienced delays that have "reinforced the argument against staging multi-fighter contests," according to Lance Pugmire of the L.A. TIMES. The tournament began in October '09 and is now scheduled to "conclude sometime in the fall -- two years after its start -- with a title-unifying bout at either Staples Center, Madison Square Garden or MGM Grand Garden Arena." Top Rank Chair Bob Arum, who does not have a fighter in the tournament, said, "I love tournaments but not the 'Super Six' concept. It draws things out too long and brings back losers. If you start with four or eight guys, and it's lose and go home, that would work. This tournament has become so confusing. Modeling it after the World Cup doesn't fit. This makes no sense." However, Showtime Sports Exec VP & GM Ken Hershman said, "I'm not troubled by the time it's taken. That was the whole intent of this … that we'd have extended time where there'd be nonstop talk about this tournament" (L.A. TIMES, 5/14).
SETTING A NEW MARK: In Las Vegas, Steve Carp reported, "With the help of CBS, Manny Pacquiao's unanimous decision over Shane Mosley on May 7 attracted more pay-per-view buyers than any of his previous fights." CBS' cross-promotion, which included three episodes of "Fight Camp 360" on the net, "helped the Showtime pay-per-view card generate 1.3 million to 1.4 million buys." The "final tally is expected this week." Arum, who promotes Pacquiao, said, "We're very happy with CBS and Showtime. They were a great partner, and this is the biggest pay-per-view result in Manny's career." Arum added that he "thinks boxing could return to prime-time network television on CBS this year." But if it happens, it "will probably be without Pacquiao because he might be too expensive" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 5/15). In N.Y., Bob Raissman noted there "was much noise made about how CBS joining forces with Top Rank and Showtime PPV" for last week's fight "would dramatically increase the number of pay-per-view buys." But it "appears CBS' promotional reach didn't drastically change the PPV results" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/15). Meanwhile, MULTICHANNEL NEWS' R. Thomas Umstead reports there is a "dearth of potential PPV matches in the forseeable future." Industry observers said that the "category will be hard-pressed to continue a three-year run in which PPV boxing events have generated a combined 11 million PPV buys" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 5/16 issue).
In N.Y., Richard Sandomir noted GQ magazine's website yesterday began publishing excerpts "about Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick" from the book "Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN," which hits bookshelves next Tuesday. Co-author James Andrew Miller said of the book, "We could have filled every page with salacious details -- every page. But that doesn't explain how ESPN got to be as big as it is. If there were 770 pages of sex, that would tell the sexual history of ESPN, and that might be a bigger best seller." Sandomir noted "inevitably, the most straightforward history of ESPN will cause some queasiness in Bristol." Miller said that "some anxious ESPN interviewees asked that some of their remarks be moved off the record." Sandomir: "In some cases, he agreed, sacrificing easy headlines. In others, he refused" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/16).
COVERING ALL THE BASES: On Long Island, Neil Best writes Fox Saturday was "on top of the unfolding news" that Yankees DH Jorge Posada had removed himself from the lineup for the team's game against the Red Sox, "including a controversial in-game interview" with GM Brian Cashman. ESPN carried Sunday's Red Sox-Yankees game, and the net weighed in with Curt Schilling "accurately blaming Cashman and manager Joe Girardi for failing to defuse the situation and Bobby Valentine accurately blaming Posada for acting unprofessionally." YES Network "was on the story, too, but it got caught in an awkward position not of its making Saturday when it carried Girardi's news conference live, followed by Posada on tape, even though the player spoke first." Best writes "more interesting" will be how YES deals with the issue "moving forward" (NEWSDAY, 5/17). But in N.Y., Bob Raissman writes Fox and ESPN "were so preoccupied with covering Posada, the networks treated the Yankees' dismal play as an afterthought" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/17).
NOTES: In Charlotte, Ron Green Jr. reported Warriors G Stephen Curry is helping to launch www.amzini.com, which is "designed to raise awareness of the many social networking sites available online." Curry "will be featured in two videos shot this year in San Francisco with the intention of drawing more people -- and their videos -- to the site" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/16)....SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted new Buffalo News Exec Sports Editor Lisa Wilson, who was promoted to the position last month, became the "lone black woman leading a sports section at a metropolitan daily newspaper" and the "first female sports editor at The Buffalo News." Wilson said, "It's hard to believe that I'm the only black female in this position because you can't convince me there aren't more women of color who are qualified to do this. My appointment also is a tremendous responsibility. I have to be mindful of the women and people of color who surely will follow" (SI.com, 5/16).