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Volume 21 No. 1
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Spurs lead pack in RSN ratings despite drop

The San Antonio Spurs own the NBA’s highest local TV ratings for the second consecutive season.

A week before the end of the season, Spurs games on FS Southwest were averaging an 8.00 rating, well above the second-place Miami Heat. Despite the top rating, the Spurs are down 21 percent from last year’s mark.

Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs
buried the competition in local ratings.
The local ratings story was a good one overall for the league. Combined, local TV ratings for all 27 U.S.-based teams that SportsBusiness Journal obtained ratings information on are up a total of 18 percent over last year. Fifteen of those teams saw double- or triple-digit increases this season compared with the same number of games last season (i.e., the post-Christmas schedule).

“There are great story lines throughout the league and viewers are responding in kind,” said Jeff Krolik, executive vice president of Fox Sports Net.

Nationally, TV ratings were mostly strong. ABC, TNT and NBA TV had record high viewership for their NBA schedules. ABC pulled a 3.3 rating/5.42 million viewers for 15 games; TNT drew 1.7/2.6 million for 41 of its games; and NBA TV averaged 337,000 for 96 games. ESPN experienced a mixed bag compared with last year’s record-setting post-Christmas numbers. Its rating is up slightly to a 1.3 rating (from a 1.2), and its viewership is flat at 1.9 million viewers over 71 games.

2011-12 RSN Overall Ratings

Top 5
San Antonio Spurs FS Southwest 8.00 -21.5% 70,000
Miami Heat Sun Sports 6.59 27.0% 104,000
Oklahoma City Thunder FS Oklahoma 6.58 131.7% 47,000
Chicago Bulls CSN Chicago 5.85 38.6% 204,000
Los Angeles Lakers FS West 4.64 -2.7% 258,000
Bottom 5
Detroit Pistons FS Detroit 1.51 -6.8% 28,000
Atlanta Hawks SportSouth 1.39 13.0% 32,000
Washington Wizards CSN Mid-Atlantic 0.88 -30.2% 21,000
Charlotte Bobcats SportSouth 0.82 -24.1% 9,000
New Jersey Nets YES 0.41 41.4% 30,000

Note: Does not include data from Utah Jazz telecasts (on Root Sports), New Orleans Hornets (Cox) or Toronto Raptors (Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet One).
Source: Nielsen

The best local ratings stories occurred in Oklahoma City and Minnesota, which both saw ratings jump 132 percent this year on FS Oklahoma and FS North, respectively.

The Timberwolves’ rating dropped in the second half of the year after star rookie Ricky Rubio was hurt in March. Timberwolves games are averaging a 2.95 rating; but at the season’s midway point, their games averaged a 3.63 rating.

Conversely, Thunder ratings grew during the season’s second half to finish the season with a 6.58 rating.

Knicks games on MSG (up 118 percent) also saw a significant ratings increase this season. The team has had a strong second half on TV, even as draw Jeremy Lin got injured. Knicks games are averaging a 3.32 for the season. At midseason, the Knicks were drawing a 2.02 rating.

The TV story was not so good in Boston, where viewers seem less engaged with an aging Celtics team, as games on CSN New England pulled in their lowest rating in at least five years. The 3.24 rating/77,000 homes is down 33 percent from last year.

The Nets owned the league’s lowest rating for the third straight year. The team is pulling a 0.41 rating for its last season in New Jersey, a figure that is up 41 percent.

But the NBA’s lowest TV draw is easily in Charlotte, where only an average of 9,000 homes per game are watching the Bobcats’ historic bad season — a figure that is down 24 percent from last year.