Bulls-deprived webs bullish on NBA playoffs

Net surprised ratings not lower

NEW YORK — Despite the absence of the six-time-champion Chicago Bulls and its marquee player Michael Jordan, ratings for the first round of the NBA playoffs fell off by only 8% on TBS and TNT.

The two Turner Broadcasting-owned cable networks averaged a 2.2 rating in cable homes for the 22 games they carried — all running after 7 p.m., Eastern time — from Monday, May 10, through Sunday, May 17. For the comparable period last year, TNT and TBS averaged a 2.4 rating in cable homes.

NBC won’t have the average Nielsens for the 11 games the net carried in the first round of the playoffs until later this week because most of the contests ran during the day on Saturday and Sunday.

But the Bulls-deprived Peacock is bullish: The fifth-and-final Utah-Sacramento game, which spilled over into primetime on Sunday, May 16, averaged an 8.5 rating and 16 share, making it the sixth highest-rated first-round NBA playoff game in the ’90s. The late game on Saturday, May 15, between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets averaged a solid 6.2 rating and 16 share.

A spokesman for Turner Broadcasting said the net was surprised the ratings weren’t lower this year as 18 of the 22 first-round games competed with each other on TBS and TNT, compared to only 14 last year.

As a result of the lockout-shortened season, the NBA compressed the time frame for the 1999 post-season, resulting in a schedule of four games a night for the first five weeknights on TBS and TNT.