NBA fans may or may not get to see Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers meet LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in The Finals, but viewers are certainly tuning in to the conference finals.
After ESPN set a record for most-viewed NBA playoff game in cable history Monday night, TNT donned the crowd Tuesday with its coverage of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. TNT's telecast of the Orlando Magic's 116-114 overtime win over Cleveland averaged nearly 10.1 million watchers on May 26. That toppled the 9.88 million ESPN drew the night before for the fourth game of the Western Conference finals when the Denver Nuggets evened the series at two games apiece.
The May 26 telecast garnered a 6.3 national rating and a 7.3 cable rating to become the highest-rated game of the 2009 NBA playoffs, broadcast or cable to date, as well as the most-watched game on broadcast or cable thus far. It also ranks as the most-watched show on cable so far this year.
Ratings for the fifth game of that series, won 103-94 by the Lakers Wednesday May 27, should be available later this afternoon, while TNT will enable viewers to see if the Cavaliers can stave off elimination tonight at 8:30 p.m. (ET).
Through the first four games of the 2009 NBA Eastern Conference finals, TNT averaged a 6.0 cable rating and a 5.2 national rating, up 27% over TNT's coverage of the 2008 Western Conference finals between the Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, which yielded a 4.1 U.S. ratings average for four games, and 8.36 million watchers, up 34% from 6.21 million a year ago. TNT was ahead 30% and 41%, respectively, over last year's Eastern Conference finals between the Detroit Pistons-Boston Celtics, telecast by ESPN, relative to ratings (a 4.0 mark for four games) and viewers (5.94 million).
For 41 playoff games through May 26, TNT has averaged a 3.4 cable rating and a 2.9 national rating, up 12% from a 2.6 for 40 games in the 2008 playoffs, and 4.48 million viewers, 20% more than last year's 3.74 million average.
The NBA playoffs on TNT were also up double-digits in households (16% to 3.36 million) and in key demos: adults 18 to 34 (16% to 1.39 million); adults 18 to 49 (2.59 million); adults 25 to 54 (2.4 million); men 18 to 34 (994,000); men 18 to 49 (1.8 million); and men 25 to 54 (1.68 million).