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.