What many are saying is the greatest opening-round playoff series in NBA history is making Nielsen records of its own.
TNT set a cable record for the league's opening round with its Game 6 coverage of the Boston Celtics-Chicago Bulls series on April 30. The 128-127 triple overtime win by Chicago also gave Comcast SportsNet New England the best rating in the service's 28-year history, while sister regional Comcast SportsNet Chicago netted its second-highest-rated Bulls game ever.
Nationally, TNT scored a 3.5 U.S. household rating and a 4.1 cable mark, translating into 4.05 million households and 5.35 million viewers, which made the April 30 classic the most-watched first-round NBA playoff game in cable television history. Celts-Bulls surpassed TNT's coverage of the May 4, 2006 game between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers, which averaged 4.97 million viewers, and the "drama" network's presentation of the May 3, 2007 game between the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors, watched in 3.77 million households on average.
In addition, the game was cable's No. 1 telecast for the evening among households, total viewers and key adult and male demos.
For its part, Comcast SportsNet New England notched an 8.2 household rating and 360,800 homes in the region, according to Nielsen Media Research data. Those were the highest totals in the regional sports network's 28-year history, according to CSN officials.
Over five series telecasts, CSN New England averaged a 6.8 household rating and 299,200 households, a 9.6% increase over the 6.2 playoff average through five Celtics-Hawks telecasts last year. CSN NE said it had outperformed TNT by 78%, 6.8 to 3.8, in the Boston DMA with the series to date.
In the Windy City, Comcast SportsNet Chicago recorded a 6.35 household rating, delivering 222,000 households. That was the second most ever for a Bulls game on CSN Chicago, which scored better than a 10 rating in the DMA with the club's playoff game versus the Washington Wizards in 2005. However, that contest aired exclusively on the RSN, according to a CSN Chicago spokesman.
The April 30 thriller peaked at a 10.3 household rating and 360,000 households during the 9:45 p.m. quarter hour.
Through five first round game telecasts, over 757,000 Chicago TV homes watched the Bulls-Celtics series on CSN, according to Nielsen.
All three networks will televise the decisive seventh game on Saturday May 2 at 8 p.m. (ET).
Game 7 marks the final RSN game cablecasts of the 2009 NBA postseason: the remainder of the NBA playoffs will be televised nationally by TNT, ESPN or ABC.