Nets hoping for Lakers-Knicks finals

Ratings for the NBA playoffs on both broadcast and cable television remain down from a year ago, although favorable matchups in the conference finals could help stop the bleeding.

According to Nielsen, NBC is averaging a 4.6/13 rating for its 20 playoff games this season, down 21% from last year’s 18-game average of 5.8/16. Meanwhile, Turner Sports’ ratings average for its 33 games stands at a 2.6, down slightly from a 2.7.

The NBC comparisons are a bit misleading because last year’s Mother’s Day weekend included the opening games of higher-rated conference championships.

Last weekend’s four games averaged a 4.9/14, down 17% from last year’s two conference final openers (5.9/17). The final game on Sunday, which ran into primetime in the East, was a blowout victory for Phoenix over the Lakers and averaged a 6.0/14; the preceding game (Portland-Utah) scored a 5.3 rating and the day’s best share, 16.

Hopeful for finals

An NBC rep expressed optimism that the conference finals ratings will hold up better than the playoffs to date. He noted that the league’s marquee team, the Lakers, are in the Western finals against Portland, with action beginning Saturday on the Peacock net. A year ago, Portland battled smaller-marker San Antonio for the West title.

In the East, the New York Knicks and Miami Heat are in the late stages of their playoff series, with the winner to face the Indiana Pacers. Of course, a Knicks-Lakers final, pitting teams from the nation’s top two markets, would be the ultimate dream for NBC execs.

The smaller ratings dropoff for Turner’s games on TBS and TNT is likely due to an early-round playoff format change that eliminated any overlap in cable coverage. In previous seasons, the second half of a game on one of Turner’s cable services would go up against the first half of the other.

Turner will televise only a few more midweek games, with NBC taking over exclusively beginning next Friday.

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