(Almost) Everybody Hates Kobe

Lakers, Knicks a huge draw for TNT, ESPN

On the heels of its highest-rated pro hoops campaign in 27 seasons, TNT is crashing the boards with its coverage of the NBA Playoffs.

Through its first 19 telecasts, TNT is averaging 4.26 million total viewers, an improvement of 33 percent versus its year-ago delivery (3.19 million). Demos are up proportionately, as the Turner network’s Playoffs showcase is averaging 2.46 million viewers 18-49 (up 39 percent) and 2.18 million adults 25-54 (up 34 percent).

Thus far, TNT’s biggest draw of the postseason has come courtesy of the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Hornets. On April 24, Game 4 of the best-of-seven-game series drew 6.28 million viewers, many of whom were probably thrilled to watch Kobe Bryant and Co. swallow a 93-88 loss in the Big Easy.

The almost supernaturally detestable Lakers also drew a big crowd on April 20. L.A. evened the series at 1-1 with an 87-78 home court victory that drew some 5.35 million TNT viewers.

After a seven-year drought, the return of the New York Knicks to postseason play also accounted for some of the early buzz on TNT. Game 1 of the Knicks-Celtics tilt drew a hair under 6 million fans, while the follow-up contest served up 4.73 million.

Staples Center habitués Jack Nicholson and Tom Hanks aren’t the only rich dudes hanging on every game of the Playoffs; according to Nielsen, fans who boast an annual household income of $125,000 or more have turned out in force. Well-to-do adults 25-54 are up 60 percent versus a year ago, while affluent 18-49 year-olds have grown 78 percent.

Big ratings and an engaged audience translate to big ad bucks. Per Kantar Media, the 2010 NBA postseason network partners took in $417.7 million in total ad sales revenue. The going rate for a 30-second spot in the Championship Series: $402,000 a pop. 

The NBA’s other postseason partners are also firing on all cylinders. Through its first three NBA Playoff games, ABC has averaged 5.84 million viewers, an improvement of 24 percent from 4.6 million over the corresponding period in 2010.

As one might expect, the Lakers-Hornets clash has been a boon to ABC. Game 1 lured 5.95 million viewers on April 17, making it ABC’s most-viewed opening weekend Playoff broadcast since 2003.

ESPN is also well up over last season’s average, drawing 3.58 million viewers over the course of seven games, good for a 23 percent increase from 2.91 million.

Both nets are also seeing double-digit growth across all key male demos. ESPN is up 24 percent among men 18-49, while ABC has boosted its share of the demo by 28 percent.

Oddly enough, the NBA did not account for cable’s biggest deliveries in April. Four episodes of History’s Pawn Stars outdrew the fourth Lakers-Hornets game.