The first round of the NBA Playoffs averaged 2.96 million viewers for 45 games across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, TNT and NBA TV, down 9% from 3.27 million viewers for 44 telecasts across the five nets during last year’s first round. ABC averaged 5.11 million viewers for its four telecasts. That is up slightly from five telecasts last season, which included Grizzlies-Clippers Game 7. ESPN averaged 3.1 million viewers for its nine first-round games, down slightly from its eight telecasts last season, when the net would go on to have it most-viewed playoffs on record. Games did see a 83% jump for average minute audience on WatchESPN. TNT saw a 10% drop for 24 first-round games, averaging 3.37 million viewers vs. 3.78 million viewers in ’12. The net aired a Game 7 on a Saturday night during both years, but last year’s Lakers-Nuggets finale (6.46 million viewers) significantly outdrew this year’s Bulls-Nets finale (4.44 million viewers). Since the beginning of the playoffs on April 21, TNT has ranked No. 1 among all cable networks airing sports programming in primetime. During the first round, TNT televised the seven most-viewed playoff games on cable and eight of the top 10. NBA TV’s five games averaged 304,000 viewers, down 35% from 469,000 for six games last year. NBA TV aired three games from the Pacers-Hawks series this year, with none of those games topping 200,000 viewers. The net had three games from Pacers-Magic last season, but only one of those games dipped below the 200,000 viewer mark. NBA TV did average 764,000 for Heat-Bucks Game 2 on April 23, marking the net's third best playoff audience on record (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
SWAY OF THE HARD COURT: Turner Entertainment Networks President Steve Koonin said TNT's "Inside the NBA" studio show is "virtually a perfect sports show." Koonin said, "Our sports group has really delivered something that is very unique and it is personally one of my favorite shows on all of TV. Charles Barkley is a breakout star; Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson are a very engaging combination. With the addition of Shaquille O’Neal this season, we have taken something great and made it even better" (ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE, 5/3 issue).
The N.Y. Daily News laid off several long-tenured writers yesterday, with the "total number of pink slips at around 15," according to sources cited by Joe Pompeo of CAPITAL NEW YORK. A source said that those who are “affected are being told that the headcount reduction is a result of a ‘restructuring’ at the paper with an emphasis on digital.” The Daily News has been “ramping up its digital operation this past year in a bid to capture national advertising dollars and grow its online reader base outside of New York” (CAPITALNEWYORK.com, 5/8). The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre noted longtime college basketball writer Dick "Hoops" Weiss, Sean Brennan and Tim Smith were among those "in sports at the Daily News who were let go" (TWITTER.com, 5/8).
TWITTER LOVE: Many in the media took to Twitter in support of Weiss. ESPN's Jay Bilas wrote, "No writer is more ingrained in the game's fabric than Dick 'Hoops' Weiss. While some Tweet through games, he watches the games. Respect." Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel tweeted, "Can't imagine Daily News w/o Hoops Weiss. From first days in business to Sandusky trial last summer, learned a lot about reporting from him." CBS' Armen Keteyian: "Hoops Weiss, an institution with all the right principles. His work taught others how to report. Keen eye. Completely respected. Sad day." USA Today's Dan Wolken: "Trying to think of something original to say about Hoops Weiss, but my colleagues have covered it. Great guy, and truly an institution." ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach wrote, "After me grilling him for a week, Jim Harrick looked up and saw Hoops Weiss at presser. Then he was really worried. Sad day in journalism." CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd tweeted, "I'm a better person because Dick Weiss is a mentor and a friend. No finer person exists." CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman: "Sad to hear news Hoops Weiss is out at NYDN. Besides being a true CB expert, he's also a guy who treated young reporters like an old buddy." NFL.com's Adam Schein wrote, "Dick Weiss is a NY legend, an iconic journalist. And one of the nicest people in the business. So sad to read he is out at NYDN." The Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Bill Livingston posted, "Still trying to make sense of NYDN laying off one of most authoritative basketball writers in the country, my friend Dick Weiss.,Unreal."
HIESTAND SAYS GOODBYE: In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand reports today is USA Today media columnist Michael Hiestand's "last day at the newspaper." Hiestand, who for 23 years wrote the paper's "influential sports TV column," is taking a "buyout that was offered to all long-term USA Today reporters and editors." He said of leaving, "It wasn't based on USA Today or any small details. I'm just ready to try new things" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/6 issue).
AD WEEK's Katy Bachman reported Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is working on a bill that “would require cable and satellite companies to offer customers the option of buying individual channels, rather than packaged bundles.” The bill is expected to be introduced this week and “is a retread of a bill McCain put forth” in ’06. Sources said that the bill will “take away the compulsory programming license from cable and satellite companies that don’t offer a la carte to consumers.” The bill also would repeal the sports blackout rule that “prevented some stations from airing a major sports game because of low attendance” (ADWEEK.com, 5/8).
NOT GOING ANYWHERE: In Buffalo, Alan Pergament reported Sabres play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret confirmed that he "will be back in the TV and radio booth" next season. Jeanneret said, "I don't know how many games I'm going to do. I'll do most of them. It depends on the schedule." Jeanneret worked "44 of the 48 games in the just-completed shortened season, missing the first four games because of an illness." His return would "appear to put an end to speculation that the Sabres are considering having different announce teams work radio and TV" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 5/7).
PAYMENT PLAN: MULTICHANNEL NEWS' R. Thomas Umstead noted the number of PPV buys for last Saturday's Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Roberto Guerrero fight has yet to be announced, but some cable execs are "already hoping that Mayweather’s next PPV fight will feature a marquee opponent with greater name recognition." Industry observers are "pointing to a potential Sept. 14 Mayweather bout with Canelo Alverez as a mega PPV event that could pull more than 1 million PPV buys, as well as help to build a future PPV star in the young Mexican fighter." If the Mayweather-Guerrero PPV numbers "fall short of expectations," Showtime may want to "consider an opponent for Mayweather with more box office appeal for the second of its six-fight deal" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 5/7).