NBA Playoffs an Airball for Turner

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Sabotaged by several noncompetitive contests, ratings for Turner Sports'
National Basketball Association playoff telecasts were off significantly from
last year.

Nielsen Media Research ratings for a combined 38 playoff telecasts on Turner
Network Television and TBS Superstation averaged a 2.3, down 18 percent from a
2.8 average for 38 games during the 2000 playoff season.

The playoff falloff follows a 15 percent drop in ratings for regular-season
contests, from a 1.3 rating in 2000 to a 1.1 this year.

But Turner Sports executives said the low numbers would not deter the company
from aggressively pursuing a renewal of its NBA contract, which expires after
next season.

TNT spokesman Paul Bennett blamed a succession of blowout contests for the
network's poor playoff-ratings performance. Indeed, Turner's last telecast --
May 24's Eastern Conference Finals game two between the Milwaukee Bucks and the
Philadelphia 76ers -- was a 92-78 Bucks rout.

Bennett noted that ratings for Inside the NBA, the network's pregame
and postgame show, managed to match last year's 1.4.

'We attribute that to the Charles factor,' he added, referring to the
popularity of the show's flamboyant commentator, former NBA star Charles
Barkley.

Turner Sports' regular-season and postseason ratings decline comes as Turner
and the NBA unofficially discuss renewal of the league's cable package. Turner's
four-year, $890 million deal expires in 2002, and at least one other network -
ESPN -- has intimated that it may have an interest in obtaining the high-profile
games.

But Bennett said Turner Sports is committed to retaining cable rights to NBA
games.

'We're going to stay as aggressive as we've been in the past,' he added. 'We
have a long relationship with the NBA, and we hope to continue that relationship
in the future.'

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