Despite an uneventful start to the second round, the NBA playoffs have been highly entertaining, with five of the eight first-round series going to seven games and only two requiring fewer than six games to determine a winner. The Pacers and Spurs — both top seeds — were taken to the brink, while the Western Conference as a whole has been every bit as competitive as it was during the regular season.
The NBA and its television rightsholders must be pleased. All the drama these deep series provide means more compelling live content for the networks to fill their broadcast air. ESPN/ABC, TNT and NBA TV collectively televised all the action, which amounted to 49 games out of the maximum possible 56. ESPN reported record ratings from their first-round broadcasts:
The first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs on ESPN is the second most watched and second-highest rated ever, according to Nielsen. The nine games on ESPN saw double-digit increases in both viewership and rating.
TNT’s rights deal with the league gives it the lion’s share of playoff games leading up to the finals, and the network has reported excellent returns of its own:
The network’s viewership is up 19% and its U.S. HH rating has increased 13% when compared with last year’s opening round averages (3,374,000 total viewers; 2.3 U.S. HH rating).
The 2014 NBA playoffs have propelled TNT to win the night in prime time across all of cable television 11 times among the coveted men 18-34 and men 18-49 demos and seven times among total viewers.
Great games lead to entertaining highlights and analysis, which has provided a nice boost to the networks’ respective shoulder programming. NBA GameTime, NBA TV’s studio show, generated 31 percent viewership increases for its post-game coverage throughout the first round. Meanwhile TNT’s studio show, Inside the NBA, averaged a 1.3 U.S. HH rating and 1.8 million total viewers during the first round, up 8 percent and 6 percent, respectively, over last year.
The NBA has already begun preparations for the renegotiation of its current media rights deals, all of which expire in 2016. The league is already well positioned, but being able to boast an outstanding 2013-14 playoff product with the ratings to back it up will only enhance its ability to land a monumental new deal.