The NBA heads into Game 1 of the Finals tonight with a big playoff viewership deficit compared to ’18. The league is averaging 3.95 million viewers across ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV after the conference finals (76 games), down 14% from the same point last season. Heading into the conference finals, the league was down only 4%, but the combination of the Warriors' sweep of the Trail Blazers, no figures from the Toronto market for the Raptors-Bucks series and both conference finals going seven games in '18 hurt the numbers this year. Despite the sharp drop from last year, the NBA Playoffs are up 1% compared to '17 at the same point. To keep the increase going compared to two years ago, the NBA may need Warriors-Raptors to go six or seven games to match the numbers seen by the five-game Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals. The conference finals this year (10 games) across TNT, ABC and ESPN averaged 6.49 million viewers, off from nearly 9 million average viewers for the Warriors-Rockets and Cavaliers-Celtics series last year. However, both Warriors-Trail Blazers and Raptors-Bucks stayed slightly above the ’17 figures (+1%) (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
WALK THE DINOSAURS: AD AGE's Anthony Crupi reports ABC likely will need Warriors-Raptors to go the full seven games if it is to "deliver blockbuster ad impressions." The Raptors, largely because Nielsen does not count the Toronto market, "haven't been much of a draw during the first three rounds of the playoffs." The six-game Raptors-Bucks series averaged 5.76 million viewers on TNT, a 33% drop from Cavaliers-Celtics last year. The Raptors' entire 18-game playoff slate is averaging 4.11 million viewers, down 35% compared to the Cavaliers' run last year. Meanwhile, Warriors fatigue "isn't likely to have an impact on the Finals," as the team's games through the postseason to date "would suggest otherwise." The Warriors' 16 playoff games have averaged a league-high 6.05 million viewers (ADAGE.com, 5/30).
DC United fans during last weekend's game against the Revolution saw a "technical difficulties" screen from broadcast partner FloSports for the "bulk of the seven minutes of stoppage time," the "latest in a frustrating series of events for United fans," according to Pablo Maurer of THE ATHLETIC. DC United's partnership with FloSports has been "decidedly underwhelming." Saturday's "broadcast failure was the third time this season that the feed has dropped." When the feed dropped during FloSports' debut broadcast in March, the company "owned that failure and blamed a 'geofencing' issue." But that issue "clearly remains, as some viewers within Flo's viewing area pipe up on Twitter to complain every single time the outlet streams a match." Sources said that Saturday night's issue "did not originate with Flo but rather with CSP Mobile Productions, the company that United has used for the past few years to produce games on-site." The sources added that CSP "did not make the end-time of the event clear enough to a third party that provides a fiber-optic link between CSP and Flo, resulting in the signal being cut while the game was still being played" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/29). DC United supporters group Barra Brava member Jay Igiel said that technical glitches with FloSports' broadcasts have had a "negative effect on soccer supporters culture" in the city, "starting with the tradition of public viewing parties" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 5/30).
NO LEVEL OF CONCERN: In Virginia, Shane Mettlen notes the CAA recently partnered with FloSports, which will become the conference’s primary media partner this fall, but CAA officials said FloSports' issues with DC United coverage have “little to do with upcoming college sports broadcasts.” CAA Commissioner Joe D'Antonio said, “I am very comfortable that what has occurred in both situation will not have an impact on the CAA’s relationship with FloSports or FloSports’ ability to broadcast CAA games and further CAA content.” Other FloSports’ broadcasts, such as EuroLeague basketball and college softball, have “generally received more positive reviews for stream quality.” That could be “because much of the production responsibility goes to FloSports’ partners.” In CAA’s case, that means that the “quality of future streams will fall largely on the schools themselves" (Harrisonburg DAILY NEWS-RECORD, 5/30).
Golf instructor and radio personality Hank Haney "apologized for insensitive comments" he made about LPGA players during his SiriusXM radio show, according to Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com. Asked yesterday about the 74th U.S. Women's Open being played this week, Haney "joked that he was going to predict that a Korean would win and added that he couldn't name six players" on the LPGA, "except for those with the last name Lee." Haney's comments were "quickly criticized on social media," including in a pair of tweets from golfer Michelle Wie. She tweeted, "Racism and sexism are no laughing matter Hank....shame on you. I don't ever do this, but this must be called out." Shortly after Wie criticized Haney, he "issued an apology on Twitter." LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said the tour "won't get sidetracked by individuals that simply don't get it" (ESPN.com, 5/29). Golfer Stacy Lewis said, "I’ve never seen Hank Haney at an LPGA event, so I don’t know how he could make those comments" (Charleston POST & COURIER, 5/30).
SEEKING REPERCUSSIONS: USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes if Haney is "not fired" from his radio job and "every other role he plays in golf and the news media ... then the leadership of the game, the PGA Tour and SiriusXM is condoning racism, sexism and xenophobia while basically telling everyone who isn’t a white male that golf is not the sport for them." This "wasn’t just any old interview with a local station." This was said on the PGA Tour’s "flagship SiriusXM show" (USA TODAY, 5/30). Golfer Karrie Webb tweeted if the PGA Tour is "truly serious about supporting" the LPGA, Haney and his co-host Steve Johnson "won't have a voice anymore" (TWITTER.com, 5/29).
THE REAL ISSUE? MORNINGREAD.com's Alex Miceli writes though Haney’s comments were "racist and sexist, that fact doesn’t necessarily mean that he is a racist or sexist." It does, however, "highlight issues with how women often are perceived in the U.S., and to a lesser extent how women’s professional golf is viewed, especially by men." Miceli: "Let’s see what Haney will do beyond his apology to support women’s golf. Then, maybe we can find a silver lining for what has been a gray day for women’s golf" (MORNINGREAD.com, 5/30).
The Chiefs are "producing a show called 'The Franchise,'" which will "present a behind-the-scenes look" at the team ahead of the upcoming season, according to Pete Grathoff of the K.C. STAR. The show will "begin after the AFC Championship Game loss to the Patriots," and will have "highlights and clips" from the Combine, Draft, OTAs, minicamps, training camp and the preseason. The show will "lead up to the start of the season." Episodes will be "broadcast every other week and continue during the season." The first episode aired last night on FS Midwest, and will "be available on YouTube, Facebook and the Chiefs website" (KANSASCITY.com, 5/29).
Fox finished with 4.26 million viewers on Sunday night for NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600, up 4% from 4.1 million viewers for last year's race. The race peaked at 4.64 million viewers from 10:30-10:45pm ET. Last year's race had strong head-to-head competition from an NBA conference finals Game 7. Two years ago, the race averaged 4.64 million viewers.
The chart below lists viewership from select recent sports telecasts.
NBA: Western Conference Finals Game 4:
NBA: Eastern Conference Finals Game 6:
NTT IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500
NBA: Eastern Conference Finals Game 4:
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series:
PGA Tour: Charles Schwab Challenge:
NHL: Western Conference Finals Game 6:
NBCSN drew a 2.6 overnight rating for the Blues' 3-2 OT win over the Bruins in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, down 7% from a 2.8 overnight for last year's Capitals-Golden Knights Game 2 on the same network. Last night's rating is up 4% from a 2.5 overnight two years ago for Penguins-Predators. Boston led all local markets last night with a 22.9 rating, followed by St. Louis with a 22.0, marking NBC Sports' best ever cable NHL rating there. Providence (15.4), Buffalo (7.1) and Pittsburgh (4.0) rounded out the top 5 markets (Josh Carpenter, THE DAILY).
CHIT CHAT: The NHL "teamed up with chat engagement platform GameOn" on a new NHL Chatbot, which "gives hockey fans access to content including news updates, game previews, notifications, scoring alerts, schedules, standings and in-game highlights in both video and GIF form." The bot "responds to fans' natural language requests for specific content, players and teams, and users can choose which updates to receive" (ADWEEK.com, 5/28).
HOLIDAY HELP: Monday's Brewers-Twins game on FS North had a "whopping 11.6 household rating -- the largest for a Twins game on FSN since Sept. 21, 2010," though it was likely "buoyed" by Monday being a holiday. The game was also the "highest-rated Twins game in May ever" on FS North (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/30).