Sked revamp good for viewers, disrupts players

Pro basketball’s much-criticized first-round playoff format has failed to boost the ratings on NBC, according to overnight Nielsen results for the weekend’s games.

The NBA’s second weekend of playoff contests — a combined six games on Saturday and Sunday — averaged a 5.4 household rating, down 26% from last year’s 6.8. Comparisons are difficult to make, however, since this year’s games were the third games of best-of-five series while last year’s games were the more meaningful fourth and fifth games, including several nail-biting series finales.

Sunday’s Los Angeles Lakers-Sacramento Kings game, which ran into primetime in the East, averaged a weekend best 7.2/14. For the first two weekends, NBC is averaging a 5.2 in overnights, down 13% from last year’s 5.9.

The National Basketball Assn. and NBC revamped the playoff sked this season to maximize ratings by, for the first time, allowing fans to see every game in its entirety on either broadcast or cable television. However, in avoiding overlaps during TBS and TNT coverage on weeknights and in guaranteeing NBC a tripleheader on both weekend dates, the first-round sked was stretched over nearly two weeks.

The sked has been assailed by players, coaches and fans alike for disrupting the natural rhythm of the players, who are accustomed to playing about every other day. NBC and the league are hopeful that ratings will pick up with second-round action, which begins later this week and adheres to a more traditional schedule.

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