ABC earned an 11.8 overnight Nielsen rating for Game One of the Heat-Thunder NBA Finals last night, marking the net's best overnight since it acquired NBA rights prior to the '02-03 season. The rating is also the best for an opener since NBC earned a 12.9 overnight for Lakers-Nets Game One in '02. Heat-Thunder is up 10% from a 10.7 overnight for the Mavericks-Heat opener last year. The rating peaked at a 14.1 during the 11:30-11:45pm ET. The game earned a 44.3 local rating in Oklahoma City, setting a record for an NBA telecast in the market. It drew a 30.5 rating in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). MULTICHANNEL NEWS’ Mike Reynolds wrote the “number of casual sports fans and viewers that come to the screen and check out Team Next, root against Team Loathe from South Beach and witness an on-court confrontation that is both highly competitive and sufficiently lengthy (e.g. at least six games) will ultimately determine ABC’s audience” for the NBA Finals (MULTICHANNEL.com, 6/12). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said the NBA “is better served by a great series, a long, dramatic series with the best these two teams can offer which is considerable" ("PTI," ESPN, 6/12).
SOLID START: In Oklahoma City, Mel Bracht writes ABC “didn’t miss a shot and was particularly effective with the cameras behind the basket getting amazing shots” of Thunder F Kevin Durant and Heat F LeBron James. ESPN’s Mike Breen “turned in his normal solid play-by-play, and Jeff Van Gundy had his usual oddball comments that make him one of the most unpredictable analysts in the NBA.” In his TV debut, former NBA ref Steve Javie "stuck by game officials." He defended a blocking call on Thunder F Nick Collison "that replays showed what appeared to be a charge" by Heat G Dwyane Wade (OKLAHOMAN, 6/13).
HOT HOT HEAT: ESPN averaged a 3.9 U.S. rating and 6.2 million viewers for its 21 telecasts of the NBA Playoffs, marking the net’s highest-rated and most-viewed NBA Playoffs in 10 years of coverage. The figures were also up 26% and 24%, respectively, from a 3.1 rating and 5.0 million viewers last year. The Heat-Celtics Eastern Conference Finals earned a 6.2 U.S. rating and 10.1 million viewers, which is tied with last year’s Heat-Bulls series on TNT as the highest-rated NBA Playoffs series ever on cable TV. Heat-Bulls averaged 10.4 million viewers and remains cable TV’s most-viewed NBA series ever. This year’s Heat-Celtics series is also up 44% and 46%, respectively, from ESPN’s Mavericks-Thunder Western Conference Finals last year. Game Seven of the Heat-Celtics series on Saturday night averaged a 7.7 U.S. rating and 13.3 million viewers, marking the highest-rated and most-viewed NBA game ever on cable TV. The Heat-Celtics series delivered the three highest-rated games ever on cable TV (Karp).