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NBA finals subpar: Are the Spurs too boring for the average viewer?
The NBA and ABC have a potential problem. It’s called the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals.
Already up 1-0 over the glitzy Miami Heat, the Spurs have been ratings kryptonite in their four successful trips to the championship round since 1999.
It doesn’t help that San Antonio is a relatively tiny 36th among television markets across the country. Nor has it helped that Spurs, workmanlike and brutally efficient, have allowed only one of their Finals to extend to seven games. But the Spurs’ last three appearances in the Finals rank 1-2-3 at the bottom of the barrel.
Surely the Heat, led by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, should end the trend.
Game 1 on Thursday night, a nip-and-tuck affair that went down to the wire, scored an 8.8 national rating, according to the Nielsen bean counters. That’s not good. Single digits never are.
The Spurs’ sweep of the LeBron Cavaliers in 2007 was the lowest-rated Finals ever with an average rating of 6.2.
No. 2 from the bottom came in 2003 when the Spurs beat the New Jersey Nets in six games. It averaged 6.5.
No. 3 is the Spurs-Detroit Pistons’ seven-game series of 2005. The Pistons were the defending NBA champions at the time. Seven games is supposed to be a ratings elixir. Detroit is the 11th largest market in the country. The series scored a disappointing 8.2.
All three have been on ABC.
You could find Finals on CBS in the late 1970s that rated lower than 8.2, but not all the games were televised live in prime time.
Please note that last season, the Heat-Oklahoma City Thunder scored a relatively healthy 10.1 rating. Oklahoma City, at No. 41, is smaller than San Antonio and its team helped produce a higher-rated series. Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook must bring something that Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker don’t – eyeballs.
Historians will note that the NBA Finals aren’t what they used to be no matter which teams are playing. The 1998 Finals on NBC featured the Michael Jordan Bulls over the small-market Utah Jazz in six games. The rating was a record 18.7.
The very next season, the Spurs beat the market-king New York Knicks in five games. The rating plummeted to 11.3, second lowest in NBC’s 12 seasons. .in the Finals business.