Turner Network Television and ESPN are thus far enjoying a ratings windfall
from cable's expanded coverage of the first two rounds of the National
Basketball Association playoffs.
Almost four weeks into the playoffs push, TNT and ESPN are both reporting
higher-than-expected ratings, which, executives from both networks said, bodes
well for cable's unprecedented access to the league's conference-finals
Continuing the momentum from the second half of its regular-season coverage,
TNT averaged a 2.9 household rating for its 36 NBA playoff telecasts through May
13. That was up 21 percent from the 2.4 posted for the 33 games TNT and TBS
Superstation televised through a similar span last year, TNT officials said.
The second-round NBA games have proven especially strong for the network,
particularly the Western Conference series between the Los Angeles Lakers and
San Antonio Spurs and the Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks.
TNT dunked a 3.9 rating for 11 second-round telecasts, up from last year's
3.0. Further, the network's May 14 presentation of the fifth game of the
Lakers-Spurs series posted a 6.2 national cable rating.
TNT's NBA coverage also helped the network to finish first among all
basic-cable networks in household ratings for the week of May 5 through 11.
TNT's NBA games nabbed the top-three highest-rated shows of the week en route
to an overall 2.9 rating, outdistancing sister service Cartoon Network, as well
as Lifetime Television, which tied for second with a 1.7 rating, according to
ABC Cable Networks Group's analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.
For ESPN's part, the network's 16 postseason games through May 13 have
averaged a 2.3 rating, more than double what the corresponding time periods
averaged in 2002. The ratings were boosted by a second-round 2.7 mark for five
games, spokesman Dave Nagle said.
ESPN expects a significant ratings uptick for its exclusive coverage of the
Eastern Conference finals. Unlike the previous rounds, local regional sports
networks or stations in each team's market will not be allowed to compete with