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NBA's TV ratings are mixed bag

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Posted: Wednesday May 03, 2000 09:34 AM


NEW YORK (AP) -- While Turner Sports' ratings for the NBA playoffs have held steady from a year ago, fewer and fewer people are watching the league's games on NBC.

First, NBC saw its regular-season national ratings drop to a 3.4, a 21 percent plunge from last year and 29 percent from two years ago.

Now the network, in the second year of a $1.75 billion, four-year rights deal with the NBA, has seen its playoffs coverage absorb a comparable hit.

National ratings released Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research show the prime-time matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings on Sunday drew a 6.3 national rating, a 26 percent slide from 1999's 8.5 in the same spot.

That's particularly significant because the game featured the regular season's best team (the Lakers were 67-15) against one of its most exciting (the Kings scored an average of 105 points). It was also a tight game into the fourth quarter and featured one of the first round's few upsets as Sacramento won 99-91.

The Utah Jazz and Seattle SuperSonics prime-time game Saturday earned a 4.2, down 32 percent from a year ago.

A national ratings point represents 1,080,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 100.8 million TV homes.

Overall, the weekend's six NBA games on NBC, part of the drawn-out first-round schedule, earned a 5.1 big-market overnight rating. Last year's second weekend of the playoffs had a 6.8 -- a 25 percent difference.

This year's playoffs to date are averaging a 5.2 after 12 games, a 12 percent dip from last year's 5.9 from 11 games.

The numbers for Turner Sports' playoff broadcasts on TNT and TBS are holding steady, with an average national cable rating of 2.2, the same as a year ago.

"One of the contributing reasons why numbers were down this weekend is last year we had three Game 4s that were ultimately deciding games and two dramatic Game 5s. This year we had three Game 3s," NBC Sports vice president Kevin Sullivan said.

"There's going to be enough compelling stories in these coming series that there's going to be more interest."

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