TNT earned a 7.7 overnight Nielsen ratings for last night's Bulls-Heat Eastern Conference Finals Game Three from 8:33-11:10pm ET, which is likely to end up as the most-viewed NBA game ever on cable when fast-national data is released later this afternoon. Game One of the series set the current viewership mark last Sunday with 11.1 million viewers. Game Three is also up 26% from the comparable Lakers-Suns Western Conference Finals Game Three on TNT last year. The telecast earned a 22.5 local rating in Chicago and a 24.9 rating in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale. Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 4.5 overnight for Mavericks-Thunder Game Three on Saturday from 9:00-11:45pm, up 2% from a 4.4 overnight for the comparable Celtics-Magic Game Three last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). Last night's game was the first in the series since Wednesday, and ESPN's Len Elmore said, "Strategic programming, that's what we're talking about. Remember the NBA did the highest ratings ever. They know what they're doing right now. But having that much time in between creates a situation as far as momentum is concerned" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 5/22).
HAVES AND THE MAV NOTS: In Dallas, Barry Horn noted of the four markets with teams in the Conference Finals, Dallas-Ft. Worth is "dead last through two games when it comes to watching the home team." ESPN averaged an 18.3 local rating for last Thursday's Thunder-Mavericks Game Two, which was "one full ratings point less" than Game One, and also "attracted 25,946 fewer homes." Horn: "So much for the notion that the opening-game win ... would be a momentum-builder." By comparison, Horn noted last year's Rangers-Yankees ALCS averaged an 18.8 local rating on TBS through two games, and the "lowest rating for a Cowboys game of the 2010 season was a 23.8 for an Oct. 31 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars that dropped Dallas to 1-6" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/21).
BROADCAST ROUNDUP: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes ESPN's Doris Burke was "trending on Twitter and piling up page views for the video of one of her sideline pregame reports" before Saturday's Mavericks-Thunder Game Three. Burke in the video "starts speaking, stops and starts again -- seeming to mouth an expletive -- as if she's doing a routine taping." Burke said, "At the last minute, they decided to tape it. And like it happens in TV when you're taping, I kept stopping." She said the wrong report aired, noting, "It was as simple as someone hitting the wrong button." ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys: "We just played the wrong tape" (USA TODAY, 5/23). Meanwhile, the DALLAS MORNING NEWS' Horn wrote ESPN's announcing team of Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson "has been stellar." They "genuflected at the altar of Dirk Nowitzki in Game 1 and went nuts over Kevin Durant's monster throwdown dunk late in the first quarter of Game 2." However, where ESPN "can't match TNT is in the studio." Horn: "Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley deliver the best studio show in all of sports, smart and never contrived. Ernie Johnson is the perfect host and isn't afraid to tweak his partners" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/21).
UNITED AGAINST LEBRON: In DC, Mike Wise wrote under the header, "LeBron James Makes The NBA Playoffs Must-See TV." Wise: "The moment Team LeBron partnered with Jim Gray and ESPN last summer to televise the career choice of the greatest free agent this side of Prince William, the NBA didn't merely have its first uber team since Michael Jordan's Incredi-Bulls; it had a built-in, ready-made villain: LeBron James." The Heat is the team "you can't wait to see get beat," something that "hasn't happened in sports since Barry Bonds was chasing Hank Aaron's career home run record" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/21).