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NBA Finals' Game 1 a ratings bust

HOLLYWOOD — This isn’t exactly what ABC had in mind.

In the net’s first crack in 30 years at pro basketball’s NBA Finals, Game 1 of the series between the San Antonio Spurs and New Jersey Nets was a ratings bust Wednesday.

According to Nielsen nationals, the Spurs’ victory averaged a 4.0 rating/13 share in adults 18-49 and 9.6 million viewers overall — down 39% year-to-year from last year’s Lakers-Nets opener on NBC and the smallest audience on record for an NBA Finals game in primetime.

Only once in the last five years had a Finals game averaged fewer than 14 million viewers.

In men 18-34, this year’s 4.8 rating is down 43% vs. last season and off 49% from two years ago.

Unlucky Lakers

ABC, in the first of its six-year deal with the National Basketball Assn., had its ratings hopes dashed a few weeks ago when the three-time defending champion Lakers were eliminated. And in the Nets and Spurs, the Alphabet was saddled with teams that have little national appeal.

There was also little momentum heading into the Finals, as there was a week’s layoff for both teams following quick victories in the conference finals.

Game did a 40.8 household rating/57 share in San Antonio, but the city is the nation’s 37th biggest market. It drew an 11.2/16 in New York, where the Nets have a following but are hardly the hottest thing in town.

ABC won the night in some male demos but settled for second in adults 18-49 to NBC (3.6/12 vs. 3.8/12).

NBC’s talent show “Fame,” meanwhile, took a hit in its second week (3.3/11 in adults 18-49, 9.95 million viewers overall), placing second in 18-49 to repeats of Fox comedy “That ’70s Show” (3.6/12).

“Fame” was down 15% in 18-49 rating for the first of its two hours a week ago (3.9) and down 2 share points (from 13).

Its decline was in line with what scripted programs typically see after a strong premiere. What numbers unscripted programs will draw is far more uncertain, though in major success they generally build from week to week.

“American Idol,” for example, built by 8% from its premiere to week two last summer.

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