The NBA’s strong regular-season TV ratings continued into the first weekend of the postseason. ABC led all telecasts over the weekend with a 4.4 overnight for yesterday afternoon's Pacers-Cavaliers Game 1, flat from last year's Warriors-Trail Blazers Game 1 in the same window (4.4 rating), which fell on Easter Sunday. TNT saw a mixed bag for its slate of three games yesterday. Last night's T'Wolves-Rockets game led the way for the net with a 3.1 overnight, but that was down 16% from a 3.7 rating for the comparable Rockets-Thunder matchup last year. TNT earned a 3.0 overnight for yesterday's Jazz-Thunder Game 1 from 6:30-9:00pm ET, also down slightly from a 3.2 for Celtics-Bulls last year. TNT did see a ratings increase for its opener yesterday afternoon, which featured the Celtics beating the Bucks in an OT thriller. The game drew a 2.2 overnight, up 29% from a 1.7 for Wizards-Hawks Game 1 last year. Meanwhile, ESPN and ABC averaged a 2.7 rating Saturday for a slate of four games, up 17% from the comparable schedule last year. ABC led the way Saturday afternoon with a 3.3 overnight for the Warriors’ rout of the Spurs in Game 1, up 14% from a 2.9 for Cavs-Pacers in the same window last year. ESPN drew a 2.9 overnight on Saturday evening for the 76ers’ rout of the Heat, up 26% from Spurs-Grizzlies in the same window last year (2.3 rating). Heat-76ers marked the highest-rated opening Saturday game for ESPN in six years. Meanwhile, Saturday’s Wizards-Raptors Game 1 drew a 2.1 rating on ESPN (+17% from last year), while Pelicans-Trail Blazers drew a 2.3 overnight (up 10% from ’17). Sunday ratings from the Detroit and Greensboro markets were excluded due to a Nielsen delay.
NBC saw ratings increases for its three Stanley Cup Playoffs windows this weekend, led by the Penguins' 5-1 rout of the Flyers yesterday afternoon. Pens-Flyers Game 3 earned a 1.6 overnight rating, up 33% from a 1.2 rating for Game 3 of the Blues-Wild series last year, which fell on Easter Sunday. On Saturday, NBC drew a 1.3 overnight for Maple Leafs-Bruins Game 2 (up from a 1.2 last year) and a 1.3 for its regional playoff window from 3:00-6:15pm ET, up from a 1.2 overnight in the same window in '17 (Josh Carpenter, Assistant Editor).
CAN'T GET ENOUGH: Nashville-based WTVF-CBS Program & Research Dir Mark Binda said that Game 2 of Predators-Avalanche on Saturday "earned a whopping 10.3 rating." In Nashville, Mike Organ writes that "means 106,162 [local] households watched the Predators take a 2-0 lead in the series." The rating for the first game of the series was a 7.5, and Saturday's was the "highest since the Predators set a franchise record with a 27.4 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final last season" against the Penguins (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 4/16).
WHAT ABOUT BOB? The NATIONAL POST's Michael Traikos noted for the "first time in almost five decades," longtime "HNIC" play-by-play announcer Bob Cole "won’t be calling any playoff games." It is a "decision that caught Cole by surprise," and one that he "still doesn’t quite understand." Cole: "The decision sure wasn’t mutual. It was right out of the blue. Rogers decided to go with other (broadcast) teams and I have to live with that. But it was their decision -- not mine.” Though Rogers did not indicate why Cole "isn’t part of the plan this year, the decision isn’t that surprising." Cole’s workload has been "cut back more and more over the years." Now he "isn’t sure whether he will be back in the booth next season" (NATIONAL POST, 4/14).
CALLING CARD: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes under the header, "Doc Emrick: Hockey's Beloved Soundtrack." The longtime NBC hockey broadcaster is to the "point where his voice is synonymous with his frenetic, fast-moving sport." Emrick’s "erudite preparation and relentlessness ... could make any action sound interesting" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/16).
The NFL is expected to announce its '18 regular-season schedule later this week, and the Jaguars’ surge last season that saw them reach the AFC Championship Game "would usually slot them" for multiple primetime games, but they may be denied the usual 4-5 such games that are "given to teams of their caliber," according to Ryan O'Halloran of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Three factors "could dictate" the Jaguars not receiving a large number of primetime games: market size, tradition and offensive star power. The Jaguars "represent a conundrum for networks: They should be interested because they are a good team, but can they attract enough viewers?" The Jaguars have played 10 Thursday night, 11 Sunday night and 15 Monday night games in franchise history, but they have "appeared only once on NBC’s Sunday night package" since it started in '06. They have "not appeared on ESPN’s Monday night schedule since two home games" in '11. The Jaguars’ schedule "strengthens their case" for playing on Sunday, Monday or Thursday night as the team will "play home games" against the Patriots and Steelers and play the Cowboys on the road. Overall, they "play a combined nine games against teams in top-10 television markets." Placing the Jaguars in primetime against a marquee opponent "figures to be the best route because everybody wins -- the league gets to showcase a rising team and the network gets a big market" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 4/16).
COMING SOON: THE MMQB's Peter King writes his guess is the NFL "would like" to have the schedule "released late this week." King: "My money’s on Thursday." Part of the reason for that is the NFL "doesn’t want the schedule release to conflict with the draft next week, so they’ll work hard to get it done this week and maximize the spotlight on the schedule" (SI.com, 4/16).
In Phoenix, Bob McManaman noted former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has "let it be known that he is currently negotiating a contract with two competing television networks regarding an NFL broadcast gig." One job "would be as a studio analyst," the other as an in-game color commentator. Arians: “It should be (announced) in the next few weeks, booth or studio. I’m kind of back and forth. I’m looking at the booth because in the booth gives me the ability to go to practices, see the coaches, see the players and stay in the game" (AZCENTRAL.com, 4/14).
MOUND VISIT: In K.C., Pete Grathoff notes former MLBer Jeremy Guthrie had "long considered trying his hand at broadcasting," and he "will get his chance Wednesday when he is part of the Facebook broadcast" of Royals-Blue Jays. Guthrie, a former Royal, said he has "had discussions in the past" with Royals VP/Communications & Broadcasting Mike Swanson where he "expressed an interest" in calling games (K.C. STAR, 4/16).
GET WELL SOON: In Toronto, Dave Washburn noted longtime Star reporter Doug Smith "suffered a rather serious heart attack" last week and will be "stepping away from the Raptors beat for the time being." There is "no timetable for his return at the moment, but a return is planned" (THESTAR.com, 4/11).