The network suits at TNT have to be happy they have the rights to the Eastern Conference finals — they got the Heat and LeBron James to showcase. Indiana may be a small market to go against them (you know the network was pulling for the Knicks last round) but at least they have crossover stars.
ABC/ESPN has San Antonio and Memphis, and while fans may respect the games of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker they don’t tune in to watch them play.
That’s evidenced by the NBA Western Conference Finals ratings posted by Sports Media Watch (via The Big Lead).
Game 2 of the Grizzlies/Spurs NBA Western Conference Finals drew 4.6 million viewers on ESPN Tuesday night, down 48% from Celtics/Heat Game 2 last year (8.8M), and down 34% from Thunder/Mavericks Game 2 in 2011 (7.0M). Compared to Game 2 of last year’s Thunder/Spurs WCF on TNT (7.3M), Tuesday’s viewership declined 37%.
And it gets worse. That was the least viewed conference finals game since Jazz/Spurs in 2007. Even last round some of the games between the Thunder/Grizzlies and Warriors Spurs drew bigger numbers.
Those of us that love the game of basketball can preach about how the Spurs play a beautiful, smart game but that is not going to make people tune in and watch. Stars get people to watch. And while we can argue that Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are stars whose names crossover outside the world of basketball, the numbers don’t lie — people don’t tune in to watch them. The three lowest rated finals since 2000 all involved the Spurs.
Which means the ABC/ESPN network guys, who will broadcast the finals, are lighting candles in church in hopes the Heat make the NBA Finals.