Ratings Roundup: Lakers-Celtics Matchup Continues To Produce Big Ratings

The storied Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics rivalry is producing big ratings yet again. ABC’s coverage of Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday notched a 10.8/18 final rating and 18.7 million viewers. That is up 35%  in ratings and 32% in viewership from Lakers-Orlando Magic Game 5 last year (8.0 rating, 14.2 million).

The broadcast also marked the first time in five years that more than 18 million viewers tuned into an NBA game. The Game 5 broadcast delivered the highest overnight rating since 2004 (Lakers-Detroit, 15.5 overnight rating). All five games have won the primetime ratings race for ABC.

Coverage will continue with Game 6 on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC, as the Celtics, currently up 3-2 in the series, look to eliminate the Lakers in Los Angeles.

The NHL posted huge audience gains across several platforms during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  A wave of high ratings was capped off by the most-watched NHL game in the U.S. in 36 years with Game 6 of the Finals on NBC.  In addition, CBC reported the highest audience for an all-U.S. Final in Canadian television history during the Chicago Blackhawk’s victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.

“By whatever method of measurement you want to use — be it ratings, revenues, page views, video starts, sponsor activations, or simply the quality of play — the game, the players, the fans, our clubs, and our partners teamed up to make 2009-10 a season to remember,” says NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg’s ultra-hyped major-league debut on June 8 garnered a 0.84 national rating on MLB Network, making it the highest-rated program on the network since Nielsen recently began measuring the 18-month-old channel’s performance. About 462,000 television households tuned in to MLB Network for Strasburg’s 14-strikeout performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The game was carried in Washington and Pittsburgh by the teams’ local cable outlets. The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which carries the Nationals, posted a record 7.1 rating, the equivalent of 165,000 television homes. In Pittsburgh, the 5.6 rating on FSN Pittsburgh added 64,800 households to the overall audience.

Strasburg’s second start against the Cleveland Indians was picked up for TBS’s Saturday MLB coverage on June 13. The 21-year-old righty will make his first broadcast-TV appearance this Saturday on Fox, which has picked up the Nationals-Chicago White Sox game for its afternoon coverage.

Fox’s NASCAR coverage from February through May experienced a mass exodus of young viewers.  Overall, NASCAR’s viewership on Fox dropped 7.1% from 2009, and the numbers are down 16.5% from 2008. Turner broadcasts six races, and ESPN has the final 17 of the season. NASCAR’s Sprint Cup races still averaged 7.897 million viewers for 11 races that weren’t affected by weather, but the male 18- to 34-year-old demographic showed a 29% decline. That’s in addition to a 21% decline in that demo for all 36 Sprint Cup races on network and cable last year.

Fox continues to struggle with its MLB coverage this season. Saturday’s Tampa Bay Rays-Texas Rangers telecast finished with a 1.4 final rating, which was down 7% from coverage featuring the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers last year (1.5). It is the fifth time in nine telecasts that ratings have declined for baseball on Fox — and the sixth time that ratings have dipped below a 2.0.

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