The highway was jammed with live sports productions over the recent holiday weekend, but the National Basketball Association missed an opportunity to air a game on “free” broadcast TV. … Ooops, sorry. … There was an NBA playoff game on network TV Monday night.
Suns-Spurs buried on the final night of Memorial Day weekend on ABC.
Just another beacon shining from David Stern’s lighthouse – which, since the commish sold out cable-less fans by selling out to cable TV (ESPN/TNT) three years ago, has been surrounded by fog, making it hard to find even what channel is televising an NBA playoff game.
Of course the commish, and his minions, will point to the fact – as they did yesterday – that ESPN/TNT’s playoff coverage allowed both cable outlets to totally dominate the May (ratings) Sweeps period in “key audiences most important to advertisers.”
The NBA, and its cable TV partners, can do all the focus groups – all the marketing studies – they want. The studies cannot replace common sense, which has always been in short supply in the sports media business. Viewers don’t watch stations, like ESPN and TNT, they watch programs.
In Manhattan, TNT is on Ch. 3.
ESPN is on Ch. 28.
On an NBA playoff night, Mr. Widget plops his butt on the couch, picks up the remote, and begins surfing. Suddenly, he is stuck on a VH1 documentary about the life and times of Styx. An hour later, Widget is surfing again. He stumbles on an NBA playoff game. Five minutes left in the fourth.
If Widget knew the game was on TNT, he might have tuned in from the tip-off. He doesn’t regularly watch ESPN or TNT. So, he does not know where to go. The NBA and its TV partners can pooh-pooh this grass-roots example if they wish. If they actually care about the future of the NBA, they will not ignore it.
Now, they are all killing the game slowly.