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NBA viewership up despite shortened season

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David Brancaccio: The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat go at it in game one of the NBA finals tonight. The matchup between two of basketball’s biggest stars, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, should further boost ratings at ESPN and ABC. Despite warnings of a hangover from last year’s players’ lockout, NBA viewership is up.

Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports.


Amy Scott: Fans seem to have forgotten all about the lockout that shortened the NBA season by 240 games. Brad Adgate with Horizon Media says regular season ratings for games on ESPN, ABC and TNT were up 2 percent compared to last year. Saturday night’s conference final between Miami and Boston was the most-watched NBA game ever on cable.

Brad Adgate: There’s a lot of drama, and a lot of close games, and I think that really heightens up fan interest.

Drama like the young Philadelphia 76ers team that made it much further than expected. And of course, the Jeremy Lin phenomenon early this year.

Kenneth Shropshire teaches the business of sports at the Wharton School. He says the jump in ratings should help the networks sell ads next season.

Kenneth Shropshire: It’s tough to make up for the past, but I think for the future, especially after we get through this final series, they may have a much better story to sell.

That story stars a lucrative and hard to reach demographic of young men. Adgate says the median age of NBA viewers is around 38 — younger than a typical sports audience.

I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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