Jordan, NBA boost NBC to biggest win since 'Seinfeld' week

Sunday’s Game 7 showdown between Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers — the seventh-highest-rated pro-basketball telecast ever — has fed NBC a slam-dunk of a ratings win in May 25-31 primetime Nielsens. Except for “Seinfeld” week, it was NBC’s widest weeklong margin of victory since January’s Super Bowl.

In homes, last week was NBC’s highest-rated first full week of the “summer season” (post-May sweeps) in eight years. In total viewers aged 18-49, it was NBC’s best tally for the week in 10 years.

The Bulls-Pacers nail-biter, the first game-seven climax faced by a Michael Jordan-led Bulls team in six years, produced an all-time NBA record for most total viewers, with 61 million watching at least part of the game.

In rating, which is a percentage of U.S. TV households (a measure that doesn’t give more recent broadcasts a population-increase advantage over older telecasts), Sunday’s game was the seventh-highest-rated ever and best in NBA history for a non-finals telecast. Its 19.1 rating, 33 share swats away the 25-year-old non-finals mark of 16.3/30 set on April 27, 1973, with a Boston Celtics-N.Y. Knicks game-six hoopcast on ABC.

In fact, only one finals matchup of the past four years (1997’s Chicago-Utah game five, 20.1/35) was higher-rated than Sunday’s narrow escape by the Bulls.

Each of the other five past NBA telecasts that were higher-rated than the May 31 Bulls-Pacers game were all part of NBA finals: 1988’s L.A.-Detroit game seven (21.2/37), 1993’s Chicago-Phoenix game six (20.3/39), 1993’s game four (19.8/35), 1991’s Chicago-L.A. game five (19.7/36) and 1984’s L.A.-Boston game seven (19.3/33).

Jordan and the Bulls are currently featured in six of the eight highest-rated NBA telecasts to date. If, as expected, the Utah Jazz give the Bulls a serious challenge in this year’s finals, more historic ratings are expected.

With Jordan still in the mix (this could be his final season), basketball remains on the ascent, running generally ahead of comparable baseball results and starting to approach football-level numbers. For example, last January’s Super Bowl prelims earned Nielsen scores of 26.2/47 and 25.0/54, and baseball’s highest-rated pre-World Series playoff game last October was a 14.9/27.

Sunday’s record numbers have boosted this year’s NBA playoff primetime average to a 13.4/25 leading into the finals, up a robust 18% from last year’s 11.4/21. Every primetime telecast this year has featured the Bulls. Overnight results that include all weekend daytime telecasts (and several non-Bulls games) are averaging a 7.6/20, up 4% over last year.

The week’s primetime results are preliminary, with Nielsen reprocessing weekend results as of Tuesday afternoon. Adjustments are possible when updated numbers are issued this morning.

Last week’s primetime adults 18-49 averages were: NBC, a 6.5 rating, 20 share (up in rating by 7% vs. results for the same week last year); ABC, 3.7/11 (down 12%); Fox, 3.4/11 (up 3%); CBS, 3.0/9 (down 14%); WB, 1.3/4 (up 30%); UPN, 1.1/3 (down 35%). It was the seventh straight week of double-digit losses vs. last year for ABC, but the Alphabet net did move past Fox into second for the first time in that seven-week span.

National primetime 18-49 averages for the top cable services last week were: HBO, 1.1/4 (down 21%); TNT, 0.9/3 (up 13%); USA, 0.8/3 (even); ESPN, 0.8/2 (up 33%); TBS, 0.7/2 (down 13%); Lifetime, 0.5/2 (down 17%); Discovery, 0.5/1 (even).

Monday

NBC limped home first in June 1 Nielsens, as “Dateline NBC” (12.1 rating, 21 share) reported the night’s top numbers in homes and most key demos. NBC’s 8-10 p.m. sitcoms collapsed to fourth in adults 18-49. “House Rules” (4.0/7) returned to the 8:30 half-hour and hit NBC’s lowest-ever firstrun regular-programming rating in that slot.

ABC won all four 8-10 p.m. half-hours in adults 18-49 with “Home Videos” (6.0/11 in homes) and “20/20″ (9.6/16 in homes).

At 10 p.m., CBS tried “Michael Hayes” (5.1/9) in the old “Brooklyn South” slot and equaled the lowest “Brooklyn” rating to date.

Sunday

Led by the huge basketball rating, NBC nearly tripled its nearest pursuer (Fox) in adults 18-49 (12.0/33 vs. 4.1/11). Basketball continues to enjoy an excellent demo skew toward younger viewers, with Sunday’s game earning a 48 share among men 18-49, a 38 among teens and a 25 among kids.

NBC’s post-game “Dateline” amassed that newsmag’s best Sunday 18-49 stats ever (7.0/18).

CBS’ quick rerun of the “Hallmark” telepic “What the Deaf Man Heard” earned nearly half its firstrun 23.0/34 from last Nov. 23 despite the night’s brutal basketball competition.

Saturday

Fox prevailed by 3 shares over the night’s sorry 18-49 competition, with ABC sneaking into second. Among the night’s wreckage was the lowest-rated “Pretender” ever.

Friday

With Bulls-Pacers basketball on its side, NBC doubled its nearest 18-49 Friday pursuer, CBS (6.2/22 vs. 3.1/11).

ABC’s canceled T.G.I.F. sitcoms “You Wish” and “Teen Angel” were fourth in their slots in adults 18-49. In homes, “Wish” hit what’s apparently ABC’s worst-ever firstrun, regular-programming rating in that slot.

Those ABC woes allowed CBS to beat the Alphabet on a Friday with regular programming for the first time in the seven years since “Dallas” went off May 3, 1991. “Unsolved Mysteries” tracked down its best CBS rating to date.

Thursday

NBC remained in control of Thursday.

Fox’s “World’s Wildest Police Videos” looks like it’ll be rerunning well, last week besting its most recent firstrun 18-49 average. The return of “New York Undercover” failed to maintain that momentum, losing 35% of the 18-49 audience it inherited from “Wildest” despite a firstrun episode.

ABC’s “World Music Awards” took a dip for the fourth year in a row, down 6% from last year and down 57% from the 13.8/23 of its 1994 maiden telecast.

Wednesday

NBC’s lopsided Chicago-Indiana playoff matchup fell 7% short of the comparable year-ago Chicago-Miami telecast but still dominated the night for the Peacock.

Tuesday

With the quick exit of the L.A. Lakers from basketball’s playoffs, NBC sent sitcoms in to sub for the expected hoopcast and lost Tuesday to ABC for the first time in five weeks.

UPN earned its best Tuesday numbers in nine weeks.

Monday

“Dateline” and “20/20″ kept NBC and ABC in a first-place tie in May 25 adults 18-49 results. ABC won in homes.

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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