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NBC runs with the Bulls

Sunday's game is NBA's most watched ever

NBC’s telecast of the deciding game of this year’s NBA Finals has hit nothing but net — net records for NBA coverage.

Sunday’s Chicago Bulls victory over the Utah Jazz has scored the best single-game rating in the history of the National Basketball Assn. and lifted this year’s championship series to the highest-rated in league history.

That’s keyed NBC’s biggest weeklong margin of victory since the Super Bowl. With the Peacock getting better-than-Thursday results on all three of its basketball nights last week, NBC more than doubled the closest competitor in adults 18-49, something no network has otherwise accomplished in the nearly 11-year history of peoplemeters, except with Olympic or Super Bowl help.

ABC provided the week’s low point, as “In the Name of the Father” on Saturday earned the lowest rating for any movie in major network history and even tied the lowest-rated movie ever when the netlets are counted (equaling the rating for UPN’s “The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy”).

Sunday’s Chicago Bulls victory, possibly the final contest for NBA great Michael Jordan, jammed in a 22.3 rating, 38 share, topping the 10-year-old record 21.2/37 scored by Game 7 of the 1988 L.A. Lakers-Detroit series.

That raised this year’s series average to an 18.7/33, easily good enough to beat the previous top-rated series, 1993’s Chicago-Phoenix matchup, which averaged a 17.9/33 over its six games.

Sunday’s Chicago-Utah Game 6 also piled on an NBA record for total viewers watching at least part of the hoopcast — 72 million. That tops the previous-record 61.4 million set by last month’s Chicago-Indiana semifinal Game 7.

Four college basketball championship games still rank higher than Sunday’s Game 6 on the list of highest hoops ratings in U.S. TV history: the 1979 Michigan State-Indiana State game (24.1/38), the 1985 Villanova-Georgetown matchup (23.3/33), the 1987 Indiana-Syracuse contest (23.1/33) and the 1992 Duke-Michigan showdown (22.7/35).

Also, the 1983 N.C. State-Houston game (22.3/32) ties this year’s NBA finale.

This year’s college-hoops championship (Kentucky-Utah, 17.8/28, lowest-rated since 1972) failed to equal the NBA Finals average, the first time that’s happened in at least 25 years.

Last week’s adults 18-49 averages were: NBC, a 7.7 rating, 24 share (up 33% vs. results for the same week last year); ABC, 3.2/10 (down 6%); Fox, 2.9/9 (down 3%); CBS, 2.8/9 (down 7%); WB, 1.3/4 (up 30%); UPN, 1.1/3 (down 15%).

Counting basketball pre- and post-game shows, NBC had the 15-highest-rated programs in adults 18-49, a first in the nearly 11 years since Nielsen instituted regular peoplemeter measurement.

Since the end of the May sweeps, NBC has averaged a 6.4/20 in the 18-49 demo, its best figure in five years.

National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services last week were: HBO, 1.4/4 (up 27%); TNT, 0.7/2 (down 22%); TBS, 0.7/2 (up 17%); ESPN, 0.7/2 (up 75%); USA, 0.6/2 (down 14%).

Monday

“Dateline” (9.5 rating, 17 share) led NBC to victory in June 15 results, NBC’s ninth in the last 10 Mondays among adults 18-49.

Fox was a distant third in adults 18-49, as a promotional special on the “‘X-Files” movie (3.7/7 in homes, 2.9/10 in adults 18-49) sparked only marginal increases vs. regular programming. (That led into the lowest-rated “Ally McBeal” to date (4.9/8).

The prognosis wasn’t positive for ABC’s “General Hospital” special (4.7/9), which fell to the net’s lowest 18-49 rating that hour since “‘Push”‘ got pulled April 13.)

Monday afternoon’s U.S.-Germany World Cup telecast on ABC earned a metered-market 4.3/12, a strong number for week-day sports.

It was, nevertheless, a 26% drop from the 5.8/18 metered-market result for the first U.S. match four years ago, when the World Cup was held in this country, boosting interest domestically.

Sunday

NBC’s record-breaking basketball stuffed the competition, winning virtually every conceivable demographic, even women 50-and-older.

In men 18-34, hoops more than doubled the combined ABC-CBS-Fox competition.

Saturday

ABC’s “In the Name of the Father” didn’t have a prayer, dropping the Alphabet to what’s apparently the lowest-rated night in 3-net history (excepting ABC’s 2.4/5 on Saturday, Aug. 30, 1997, when some results were considered “breakouts” by Nielsen due to interruptions to cover the fatal accident involving Princess Diana).

Fox won its fourth-straight Saturday in adults 18-49 and led 8-10 p.m. in households, while CBS had the higher 8-11 p.m. homes average.

Friday

The night’s NBA Finals telecast tied for the fourth-highest rating in league history (now fifth-highest after Sunday’s telecast), putting NBC ahead of the night’s combined adults 18-49 competition (Daily Variety, June 16). It was the highest-rated Friday broadcast ever for the NBA and NBC’s top Friday rating since the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Thursday

“ER,” which becomes the most expensive series in net history this fall, isn’t drawing particularly big numbers over the summer. Last week, “ER” slipped to its smallest households margin of victory ever over slot rival “48 Hours,” which aired a special “Princess Di” edition.

“Hours” beat “ER” in five metered markets, including Pittsburgh, where it nearly doubled the medical drama.

In adults 18-49, “ER” was down a modest 7% from the same Thursday last year, and still won that hour with a 21 share, 10 shares ahead of second-place ABC. NBC won the night by 11 shares in that key demographic.

The premiere of “ABC News Thursday Night” nipped “48 Hours” for second that hour in the 18-49 demo. ABC didn’t fare as well at 9 p.m., where the returning “Prey” was devoured by the competition, equaling the Alphabet’s worst-ever regular-programming rating in that slot.

Wednesday

The second-highest-rated game four in NBA-finals history kept NBC in control on Wednesday (Daily Variety, June 12). Only 1993’s 19.8/35 tops June 10’s Bulls-Jazz matchup among Game 4 results in NBA history.

Tuesday

NBC pulled away with the highest-rated Tuesday “Dateline” since Feb. 3. “Just Shoot Me” also hit the bull’s-eye with its biggest 18-49 increase ever over a “Frasier” lead-in, 20%.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals got slashed, down 18% from last year’s Detroit-Philadelphia Game 1 Saturday telecast. It was Fox’s lowest primetime Stanley Cup finals rating in three years and worst firstrun Tuesday rating since May 11, 1993.

The WB’s second episode of “Invasion America” showed promise, winning the hour in male teens and beating CBS and UPN in men 18-34 and 18-49.

Monday

NBC led June 8 results with the top-rated Monday “Dateline” since Jan. 5 (Daily Variety, June 10).

Each household rating point represents an estimated 980,000 homes, or 1% of the country’s TV homes. Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.23 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. A share is the same sort of percentage, except it measures only the homes or viewers watching TV during the timeslot involved.

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