Raissman On The NBA Finals No One Is Watching

Posted in Basketball, Sports TV at 7:33 pm by

I really will watch Pistons/Spurs Game 2 tonight. Even if it means blowing off the Red Sox/Cubs, Texas/Ole Miss and Jeremy Piven saying “hug it out, bitch” over and over again on HBO. That’s not enough to impress the NY Daily News’ Bob Raissman, however.

Thursday’s Pistons-Spurs matchup recorded a 7.2 national rating, the second-lowest rated Game 1 ever for an NBA Finals in prime time, down 27% from a 9.8 for Game 1 of Pistons-Lakers last year. Pistons-Spurs – a live championship sports event – could not even beat CBS’ “CSI” rerun, which won the night.

Prior to the release of the national rating for Game 1, and in a jive attempt to justify reality, ABC officials issued a statement reporting the 8.8 “overnight” rating (which measures the 55 largest TV markets in the U.S.) for Pistons-Spurs, but highlighted the fact that the rating was “9% higher than the last non-Lakers Finals Game 1” (2003 Nets-Spurs, 8.1 rating).

This just in: According to ABC brass, the Lakers, as a TV property, are a separate entity floating above the rest of the NBA. Maybe that’s why ABC hyped its Thursday pregame interview with Phil Jackson more than they hyped Game 1 itself.

And yet, we are happy to report despite the absence of the Lakers, and after a momentum-building (ha ha) three-day hiatus, ABC actually will air Game 2 of Pistons-Spurs tonight.

ABC’s reaction to Game 1 ratings should embarrass the entire league. What good is the overall NBA product to ABC if all the honchos there do is hope the Lakers make it to the Finals? Of course, often Stern too has been heard talking about how the Lakers can drive ratings. So maybe he applauds ABC’s propaganda.

There is no need to recount how Stern’s decision to get the most money for his owners, in return for making the NBA a basically all-cable league, has hurt the product. There is no need to detail how the lack of a consistent “free” TV platform has hampered the NBA’s overall promotion and ratings.

The combined promotional forces of TNT and ESPN, the alleged “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” had absolutely no impact on casual fans, a necessity when it comes to driving ratings for major sports events. By the end of the current TV deal, the NBA is going to be devalued as a TV product. While the commish might have done right by the owners in the last TV negotiation, he could get whacked in the back end of this deal.

Actually, I’m not sure if I agree with Raissman that ESPN’s promotional efforts have no impact on casual fans. Presumably some of them heard Eric Kuselias take the airwaves of the NBA’s broadcast partner, ESPN Radio, to proclaim that these playoffs were an uninteresting proposition. Perhaps a few people bought into Colin Cowherd’s assertions at the begining of the regular season that the NBA was irrelevent. Really, if anyone at Disney is wondering why NBA ratings suck, they should also consider that they are paying their own employees to disparage the product.

7 responses to “Raissman On The NBA Finals No One Is Watching”

  1. Tommy Hoops says:

    It always amazes me how much people bemoan low or weak ratings for the NBA, or any other sport for that matter. Firstly, I could give a flying fuck. It’s not like Im a team owner or something. Whether the NBA brings in a 7.2 or a 9.8 does not matter to me one bit.

    Secondly, the difference in most of those ratings is pretty clear. Los Angeles is bigger and more exciting than San Antonio. And you’re always going to get more fair-weather fans – the people who dont support the league all year – to tune in when it’s a sexy matchup.

    And since those people dont watch games until June, fuck them. Seriously – who gives a shit about them? If you choose to bring up the fact that ratings impact profit, I refer you to my first point.

    I guess what Im trying to say is I LOVE THIS GAME!


  2. jamie says:

    should ESPN be going the route of the Cubs, et. al. by demanding that its employees take a “see no evil/speak no evil” approach? i suppose it would just be a trickle-down effect from the way network news has handled anything/everything over the past 5 years.

  3. CSTB says:


    your question arrives just hours after Trey WIngo, while subbing for Dan Patrick, pronounced the NBA FInals “over” after two games and waxed somewhat less than eloquent about how the NFL “gets it right” in marketing their sport compared to David Stern’s mess.

    I’m not suggesting for a second that ESPN oughta be turning a blind eye to the NBA’s troubles, far from it. But on their yack radio outlet, at least, the constant refrain being hammered home is that pro basketball players are overpaid assholes, the league is out of control, the match ups stink, the regular season is irrelevant, the playoffs aren’t much better, etc.

    I mean, the NFL has brought us some whizzinator headlines, the Bill Romanokwski trial, Kellen Winslow Jr.’s pop-a-wheelie instructional tape, etc., but the sport itself is teflon.

    There’s something kinda predictable about Wingo sneering at the NBA’s crap ratings when he and his colleagues keep repeating that the product isn’t worth watching.

    It could be worse for the NBA, however. They could have the disctinction of paying to play like the MLS and having their few moments of editorial coverage consist of Kornheiser screaming about Freddy Adu’s lack of playing time. Which, by the way, is what the NHL might be reduced to if they ever play again.

  4. palefire says:

    The sport is suffering because of the cable situation. I mean that in both senses– the fact that fewer people get to see basketball games subtracts from the over-all excitement surrounding the sport, and, also, the culture of cable television, and its radio offshoot, is bombastic and confrontational and always seems to play anger and frusteration, and this leads to commentary of the sort CSTB has discussed in the above post.

    I feel a bit anxious about Stern’s position in the current negotiations. The players can not complain about their compensation, but about six weeks ago or so, there was a distinct U-turn in tone on the part of the league, and I wonder what is behind it.

    Meanwhile, I’m seriously considering a Ginobli jersey. Maybe from the Argentine national team. Do they sell those at the NBA store?

  5. Tommy Hoops says:

    Anybody complaining about ‘bad matchups’ in the NBA needs to get their head examined. What exactly was Wizards/Bulls? Two exciting young teams going figuring out the playoffs right before our eyes. Or Mavs/Suns? Or Pistons/Pacers? Or the seven game series that just ended last week?

    The problem with ESPN Radio is that there’s no teleprompter to keep the robots from sounding like total morons. And CSTB is right – these chowderheads have such a pro-NFL slant that it’s dizzying. It’s enough to drive me into the arms of hoops-loving idiots like Stephen A. Smith, who hosts two hours of talk a day on 1050 here in NYC.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer a sport that actually allows for the athlete to have some say over the outcome. Watching football is like watching fucking chess.


  6. David Roth says:

    I enjoy watching football, but I’m with TH on the problem of cable foofs talking down the NBA every chance they get, and the echo-chamber effect that’s had on public perception of the NBA’s problems. The league’s image problem — the problem that led them to hire former Bush/Cheney #2 Matthew Dowd recently as a public relations guy — seems to me very tied up in coded talk around race and cultural issues (Terrel Owens notwithstanding, NFL guys don’t get characterized as lazy, malcontent millionaires as broadly and frequently as NBA players do). The NFL seems heartlandy and mainstream — and, to a certain degree, corporate and safely white (despite having far more “outrageous” black characters in the league than the NBA boasts) — and gets away with a lot of ignorance because of that. I believe that if the NBA All Star Game had hosted a wardrobe malfunction, we’d still be hearing about it — as part of the “some say the league’s image problem (fill in the blank)” Fox-style rhetoric cable guys constantly use in these discussions.

    Also, there has been some great basketball in these playoffs — the game itself is fine, and arguably stronger for great teams like the Suns and Mavs and Spurs emerging as such. The NFL has the unique advantage of having teams play just once a week, which is why you don’t hear people saying “I just watch the postseason” about the NFL. If the ratings aren’t perfect, perhaps its because the NBA playoffs and season are so long. The decision to go with 7-game first rounds has given us some good games, but the fatigue factor exists even for an NBA die-hard like me.

    I’m not sure a Coors Light NBA-branded “Ahh Like Watching People Dunk/Getting Really Drunk/And twaaaaii-yuns” commercial gets the job done, and the NFL comparison is apples and oranges. And of course, I don’t think Matthew Dowd can fix this by Bush-ing Up the league, either. Stick a cowboy hat on the NBA and it’s not Middle America. It’s just Karl Malone.

  7. Guy Incognito says:

    As a baseball fan, let me say: welcome to the club. For about three decades I’ve had to listen to media types running down my sport, while puffing up the Almighty NFL to a fare-thee-well.

    David Roth sees the elephant in the room when he brings up the racial/cultural stuff. I think that for a lot of Middle American/”Red” American types, the association between the league and hip-hop culture has become too strong to be palatable.

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