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Volume 23 No. 29
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Resurgent NBA’s local ratings up 19 percent

The NBA is experiencing its strongest TV viewership since the Michael Jordan era, with local ratings up 19 percent and four teams more than doubling last year’s local ratings.

The Minnesota Timberwolves (+140 percent), Oklahoma City Thunder (+140 percent), Los Angeles Clippers (+138 percent) and Philadelphia 76ers (+112 percent) have more than doubled their local TV ratings this year, according to Nielsen figures through the middle of the month.

“The fans are happy to have the NBA back and it’s reflected in the ratings,” said Jeff Krolik, executive vice president of Fox Sports Networks, which oversee RSNs that cover three of those four teams. “It’s another example of the power of live sports.”

The numbers are just as good nationally, where ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV are on pace to post their highest NBA game ratings ever. Through four games, ABC is averaging 2.063 million viewers, up 10 percent. Through 21 telecasts, TNT is averaging 2.7 million viewers, up 25 percent from last season. ESPN is averaging 2.063 million viewers through 28 games, up 20 percent. And NBA TV is averaging 352,000 viewers through 52 games, up 52 percent.

The league’s best local ratings story is in New York, where the NBA’s newest star in Knicks guard Jeremy Lin is driving ratings increases to unseen heights at MSG Network. Knicks games on Feb. 17 and Feb. 20, against two of the worst NBA teams in the New Orleans Hornets and New Jersey Nets, became the highest-rated regular-season games on MSG since the network first began tracking ratings during the 1988-89 season.

Both games generated a 7.3 rating (540,788 households), helping the network’s ratings jump 82 percent in the average season-to-date household rating through Feb. 22 compared with the first 27 games on MSG Network last season (2.46 rating vs. 1.35 rating; 181,740 households vs. 101,457 households).

The ratings increase has brought a double-digit increase in advertising rates, with ad revenue also up by more than 10 percent on MSG to date.

“Lin has turbocharged a trend that was already occurring last year,” said Michael Bair, president of MSG Media. “The combination of the Knicks’ surge along with the compelling Lin story has had a profound effect on demand and viewership.”

Bair said MSG’s dispute that kept the RSN dark on Time Warner Cable for the season’s first month and a half helped drive interest in the team.

“There was pent-up demand because we were not on Time Warner and there was a bit of a hangover effect from that,” Bair said.

Strong TV stories are all over the map so far this season. Spurs games on FS Southwest are generating the league’s biggest local ratings (7.94), even though its TV ratings are down 17 percent from last year. Heat games on Sun Sports are a distant second (6.49), but up 29 percent from last year.

Lakers games on FS West draw the biggest local audience, with an average of 258,000 homes tuning into each Lakers game (down 4 percent from last year). Bulls games on Comcast SportsNet Chicago are second, attracting an average of 213,000 homes, which is up 53 percent.

RSN Ratings: The NBA's Midseason Report

Overall Ratings
Top 5
Team RSN Avg. 2011-12 rating
San Antonio Spurs FS Southwest 7.94
Miami Heat Sun Sports 6.49
Chicago Bulls CSN Chicago 6.10
Oklahoma City Thunder FS Oklahoma 5.97
Cleveland Cavaliers FS Ohio 4.91
Bottom 5
Milwaukee Bucks FS Wisconsin 1.62
Houston Rockets FS Houston 1.56
Charlotte Bobcats SportSouth 1.15
Washington Wizards CSN Mid-Atlantic 1.13
New Jersey Nets YES 0.38
Change In Rating
Top 5
Team RSN Change in avg. rating
Minnesota Timberwolves FS North 140.4%
Oklahoma City Thunder FS Oklahoma 139.8%
Los Angeles Clippers Prime Ticket 137.7%
Philadelphia 76ers CSN 111.8%
New York Knicks MSG 71.2%
Bottom 5
San Antonio Spurs FS Southwest -17.5%
Washington Wizards CSN Mid-Atlantic -19.9%
Boston Celtics CSN New England -28.5%
Phoenix Suns FS Arizona -36.5%
Houston Rockets FS Houston -40.5%
Overall Viewers
Top 5
Team RSN Avg. no. of HHs
Los Angeles Lakers FS West 258,000
Chicago Bulls CSN Chicago 213,000
New York Knicks MSG 149,000
Miami Heat Sun Sports 103,000
Los Angeles Clippers Prime Ticket 102,000
Bottom 5
New Jersey Nets YES 28,000
Washington Wizards CSN Mid-Atlantic 27,000
Memphis Grizzlies SportSouth 21,000
Milwaukee Bucks FS Wisconsin 15,000
Charlotte Bobcats SportSouth 13,000
Change In Viewers
Top 5
Team RSN Change in avg. no. of viewers
Chicago Bulls CSN Chicago +73,000
New York Knicks MSG +60,000
Los Angeles Clippers Prime Ticket +58,000
Philadelphia 76ers CSN +45,000
Minnesota Timberwolves FS North +37,000
Bottom 5
San Antonio Spurs FS Southwest -11,000
Los Angeles Lakers FS West -15,000
Houston Rockets FS Houston -23,000
Phoenix Suns FS Arizona -28,000
Boston Celtics CSN New England -37,000