Turner Network Television outpaced ESPN during the networks’ respective coverage of the first round of the National Basketball Association playoffs.
TNT, which televised 25 first-round games, averaged a 2.4 household rating, up 4% over the 2.3 the network posted for 22 games in 2004. Overall, the network averaged a record 2.15 million households for its telecasts, up from 2.06 million in 2004.
ESPN averaged a 2.1 household rating for nine first-round playoff telecasts, flat compared with 15 last season, according to network executives.
Overall, the telecasts on the two cable services and on broadcast network ABC were watched by 101.9 million viewers, up 2.3 million viewers from last year’s first-round coverage.
The ratings were strong despite playoff air balls from three of the league’s biggest stars: Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, arguably the biggest ratings draw in the league; Cleveland Cavaliers’ 20-year-old stellar sophomore LeBron James; and Kevin Garnett, whose Minnesota Timberwolves reached the Western Conference finals a year ago. Both networks were aided by several competitive and exciting playoff matchups: three of the eight series went the maximum seven games and only two featured four-game sweeps.
“We are enthused that the competitive balance in these playoffs has resulted in favorable early returns on our NBA playoff coverage,” said David Levy, president of Turner Sports.
TNT will enjoy local cable blackouts during the second round of the playoffs, as well as for its exclusive Eastern Conference finals coverage, while ESPN will benefit from regional blackouts during its Western Conference finals telecasts.