ABC, ESPN and TNT show nice Christmas gains; NBC's football still king
NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” dominated viewing on Christmas night, but sports fans also were looking to hoop it up.A quintet of NBA games featuring the league’s marquee teams delivered strong ratings for ABC, ESPN and TNT, which are happy to see the league return after labor strife delayed the start of the season by nearly two months. According to Nielsen metered-market overnights, the late-afternoon game between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks — a rematch of last season’s championship series — averaged a 5.6 overnight rating on ABC. This was up 6% over last year’s comparable game (5.3 for Boston-Orlando) and is the net’s top rating for the 2:30 p.m. ET window on Christmas since 2004. The game did a 10.8 rating in Dallas — the net’s highest-rated regular-season game in the market since ABC took over the NBA in 2002. The early-evening contest between the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers generated a 6.5 overnight rating from 5:30 to 8 p.m. ET — ABC’s third best score to date for a regular season game, trailing only Christmas games between the Lakers and Heat last year (7.3) and in 2004 (7.9). The game did a 17.4 in Chicago and a 12.1 in Los Angeles. ESPN followed with a pair of contests that went up against NFL action but still fared well. The Orlando-Oklahoma City matchup at 8 p.m. ET did a 1.9 overnight rating, up 36% from last year’s comparable game (1.4 Denver-Oklahoma City). And the nightcap between the Los Angeles Clippers delivered a 2.3 overnight rating — up 77% over last year’s Portland-Golden State contest to become the cabler’s top-rated Christmas night game to date. The Clippers may arguably have the better L.A. pro basketball team right now, but their 3.4 overnight local score shows that the Lakers are still the bigger TV draw. Kicking off the day of NBA action (12 p.m. ET) was the Boston-New York matchup on TNT, which became cable’s most-watched Christmas Day game to date (5.9 million); game did a 3.4 national household rating. The NFL, which doesn’t air Christmas night games every year (depending on what day of the week the holiday falls), generated a big 12.6 overnight score for its Green Bay-Chicago matchup — up a tick from the last primetime Christmas night telecast to air on broadcast television (12.5 for Dallas-Philadelphia on NBC in 2006). It did a 45.8/73 in Milwaukee and a 29.2/55 in Chicago. NBC was an easy winner on Christmas Eve with its rebroadcast of “It’s a Wonderful Life” (prelim 1.4/5 in adults 18-49, 4.6 million viewers overall). It was the network’s best showing on a Saturday night (excluding sports) since June 2010. “Wonderful” also stands as the season’s top-rated theatrical movie on the Big Four in adults 18-49, and is the most-watched theatrical on the major nets since ABC’s airing of “The Ten Commandments” in April.