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Ratings Strong for NBA, NHL Playoffs

April 25, 2008 1:30 PM

Great matchups featuring tight scores, intense rivalries and high-profile teams have boosted ratings for the cable outlets featuring NBA and NHL playoffs.

The NBA in particular is off to a hot start on both its broadcast and cable partners, according to final Nielsen results. ABC's two games pulled a nice 27% bump year-to-year with a 3.3 rating/8 share compared to last year’s 2.6/7. Demos also are rising sharply, with men 18-34 growing 36% and men 18-49 up 35%.

On ESPN, the outlet’s first three playoff matchups earned a 2.0/5, a 43% jump over 2007; men 18-34 were up by more than a rating point for a 79% rise to a 2.5.

TNT also is benefiting from the revived interest in National Basketball Association games, with a ratings drive that features a 16% ratings increase (2.1 U.S. rating) over the prior year. Through nine games, the network also experienced a swell in households, delivering an 18% increase, as well as significant key demo growth in men 18-34 (31%) and men 18-49 (30%).

“Audiences are rediscovering the game again,” said Doug White, ESPN senior director of programming. “The quality of play on the floor is the highest I’ve seen in my lifetime in terms of overall perspective, because there are so many great players who are all playing the game at an extremely high level. Fans and viewers appreciate that.”

In fact, every single game that aired on ESPN on Saturday showed ratings spikes.

NBA PLAYOFFS: OPENING GAMES ON ESPN: COVERAGE RATINGS

DATE DAY TIME GAME RATING CHANGE VS. 2007
4/19 Sat. 12:30 p.m. Wizards-Cavaliers 2.1 50.0%
4/19 Sat. 7 p.m. Mavericks-Hornets 2.4 60.0%
4/19 Sat. 9:30 p.m. Jazz-Rockets 2.5 38.9%


Mr. White said ESPN Web traffic also is benefiting from the renaissance, with ESPN.com’s NBA page scoring 10 million hits on the Friday before the games.

“A lot of people don’t want to be left out of the conversation as these games are providing water-cooler talk around the country,” said Mr. White. “We’ve seen this trend all season, and it’s great to see it only get better during the playoffs.”

The NHL, meanwhile, helped boost cable network Versus to record ratings for the sport, with Game 7 of the Flyers-Capitals series on April 22 earning a 0.7 HH rating and 631,040 total viewers. It was the highest-rated NHL Quarterfinals telecast ever on the network, and the most-watched NHL Quarterfinals telecast ever on the network among homes, men 18-49, men 25-54 and total viewers.

Overall, the network saw significant increases in ratings, total viewership and viewership across all key male demos compared with year-ago figures from the first post-season round.

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