NBA All-Star Game a Slam Dunk for TNT

TNT put up some powerhouse numbers with its coverage of the NBA All-Star Weekend, as the annual hoops scrimmage delivered its biggest audience in nearly a decade.

Per Nielsen fast-nationals, Sunday’s East-West game served up 9.09 million viewers, representing a 33 percent improvement from last year’s draw of 6.85 million. The exhibition now ranks as the most watched NBA All-Star Game since 2003 (10.8 million).

The Turner net enjoyed significant gains in the core demos, averaging 5.23 million viewers 18-49 (up 38 percent from the 2010 All-Star Game), 4.31 million adults 25-54 (up 29 percent) and 3.58 million men 18-49 (an increase of 47 percent).

After a six-year interval during which the ratings for the All-Star Game showed sequential ratings declines, the showcase seems to have regained its stride. Deliveries have now increased in two of the last three years (2011 and 2009).

While the NBA All-Star Game doesn’t enjoy the reach of other marquee sports scrimmages––the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl drew 13.4 million viewers on Jan. 30, while last year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game scored with 12.1 million fans––it is worth noting that both of those contests aired on a broadcast network (Fox). That alone gives the two other games an advantage of some 16 million households.

The big turnout for the actual game came on the heels of a banner evening for NBA All-Star Saturday Night, which averaged 8.09 million total viewers. Presented by State Farm, the series of events topped the year-ago deliveries by 23 percent.

At the break, TNT’s NBA deliveries are up 30 percent year over year, with an average draw of 2.38 million viewers in 38 broadcasts. Season to date, the 2010-11 NBA campaign is the most watched season in Turner’s 27 years as an NBA broadcast partner. 

Demand for a piece of the weekend was so great that Turner Sports raked in an estimated $36.5 million in All-Star Game ad sales, a leap of 25 percent, versus last year’s take. For the second consecutive year, TNT’s All-Star Game telecast was presented by Kia Motors. Sibling auto nameplate Hyundai also reprised its 2010 positioning, repeating as the presenting sponsor of the postgame show.

Other auto brands that ponied up for 30-second spots during in-game coverage were Acura, Chrysler and Ford.

While the game itself was a mixed bag––the first half was marked by particularly sloppy play––it picked up nicely in the latter half as Miami’s LeBron James helped rally the East to within shooting distance. The West hung on for a 148-143 victory, as Kobe Bryant scored 37 points on his home court.