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TNT aiming coin at All-Star hoops

Net hoping for ratings boost to carry season

This article was updated on Wednesday, February 9.

NEW YORK — TNT will lay out a record $10 million-plus to cover and promote the NBA All-Star Weekend, marshalling 35 high-definition cameras to capture the 15 hours’ worth of events culminating in basketball’s All-Star Game.

“We’re counting on the All-Star Game to give us a ratings boost that will carry TNT through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs,” said David Levy, president of Turner Sports.

Levy is hoping for some good Nielsen news because of the disappointing numbers that both TNT and ESPN — the nets that share national cable rights to the games — have managed season to date. Through Feb. 3, TNT has stumbled by 13% in households and by an even more alarming 19% in men 18-49 compared with the same period a year ago. ESPN is off by 7% in both households and men 18-49.

By contrast, the household ratings of ABC’s first three broadcast-network NBA games are up 52% compared with the same period during the 2003-04 season (which encompassed six games).

Key games

ABC saw big audience boosts this season from the first game between the Lakers and the Heat since Shaquille O’Neal was traded to Miami from L.A. The network also carried the first game between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons since players from both teams participated in an early season brawl in Detroit that spilled into the stands.

Also improving year to year are ratings for the 17 teams whose local games are carried by regional sports networks owned by Fox and Rainbow — up a collective 6% in households season to date.

Marv Albert will do the play-by-play for the All-Star Game, which kicks off at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 20. He’ll be joined by Doug Collins and Steve Kerr as analysts. The “Rookie Challenge” game, to run in primetime on Feb. 19, will be called by Dick Stockton (play-by-play) and John Thompson (color).

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