Carmelo Anthony’s debut as a New York Knick was an opening-night success personally, professionally and for Madison Square Garden Network.
After months of trade talks and various permutations thereof, Knicks owner and Cablevision president and CEO James Dolan finally got his $65 million man on Feb. 22. The next night, as sleep-deprived as the Brooklyn-borne Anthony may have been, his appearance further galvanized the awakening tipped off by the free-agent acquisition and performance of Amar’e Stoudemire this season of what has been an almost decade-long dormancy by one of the NBA’s most important franchises.
Anthony snagged 10 rebounds and poured in 27 points, including two key buckets down the stretch, which enabled the Knicks to hold off the Milwaukee Bucks 114-108, driving the MSG faithful and Knicks fans everywhere into a frenzy.
The exuberance also translated onto small screens throughout Big Apple environs, the likes of which hadn’t been seen for 16 years for a Knicks regular-season game. MSGN dunked a 6.7 household rating and 507,285 households in the New York DMA, according to Nielsen data, its highest-rating since March 28, 1995. That’s when Michael Jordan, five games into his first comeback following his Double A baseball dabble, famously dropped what No. 1 Knicks fan Spike Lee dubbed “a double nickel” at MSG. In mathematical parlance, “His Airness” scored 55 against the orange and blue, netting a 6.78 household rating, according to MSGN officials.
Now, the question is what can The ‘Melo and Mar’e Show do for a Nielsen encore? With the big ratings boost from ‘Melo’s arrival on Wednesday night, MSGN lifted its season average to a 1.62 rating in the New York DMA through 52 telecasts, up 60% from a 1.01 average last year. Among guys 18 to 34, the network dunked an 8.42 rating with Knicks-Bucks, raising its demo average to a 2.3, up 147% from its 0.93 mark during the 2009-10 NBA season.
Not sure how big Knicks and the LeBron-less Cavs will play on Friday night, but New York on Sunday night will take its new talent, including point guard Chauncey Billups, to South Beach, where James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the Miami Heat await. MSGN and ESPN’s coverage of Anthony and Amar’e figures to take a bite out of ABC’s Big Apple Oscar watching accordingly.