NBA Doesn't Dribble With TV, But Gets A Bounce

Television is up to its old tricks--trying a behind-the-back pass at every turn.

Sports franchises can do that as well as scripted TV shows. The king of all sports media, the NFL, regularly offers viewers and advertisers consistently strong ratings. But upticks in other sports always seem a surprise.

So far, the NBA is offering that to its TV networks--with ESPN and ABC moving up by double digit percent increases in the first-round playoffs versus a year ago. ESPN was up 10 percent to 2.1 million households; ABC, at 3.6 million, was 18 percent higher than a year ago.

TNT, which also does NBA games, was down a smidge--1 percent in households versus a year before. Still not bad, considering the always present fractionalization of TV viewers. For one TNT game, the sixth game of the Los Angeles Lakers-Phoenix Suns series, it posted 3.7 million households, becoming the most watched first round NBA game in playoff cable history.



Much of this rating movement is said to come from those brand-names, LeBron, Kobe, Lakers, and to a lesser, but still growing degree, team names such as the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, and Dallas Mavericks.

Teams and players can build marketing prowess just by staying strong competitors. That eventually can draw new viewers, old viewers, and resistant viewers, back into the fold.

Critics seem to moan that with certain player/team shifts a sports league can get one bad cold (and thus lower fan interest): the retirement of Michael Jordan, the breakup of the Shaq and Kobi and the Lakers, etc.

But sports always seem to find a way back. Many years ago, the NHL had a resurgence - only to get hip-checked backwards. The NBA's ratings and interest for the last several years seemed to be going the way of the NHL. That is an also-ran sport--still trying to make its way back to the once big-four group of sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL.

Brand-wise, it's good to see that for the NBA, at least, there is a bounce.

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