TNT suffered another pair of declines for NBA coverage Thursday night.
Thursday’s Knicks/Heat NBA regular season game drew 2.7 million viewers on TNT, down 62% from Heat/Cavaliers in 2010 (7.1M), but up 95% from Celtics/Spurs in 2009 (1.4M). Last year’s Lakers/Heat game was canceled due to the NBA owners’ lockout of players.
The big decline for Thursday’s game is primarily attributable to the strong numbers Heat/Cavaliers earned in 2010. The game was the first for LeBron James in Cleveland since joining the Heat.
Still, Thursday’s game ranks on the lower end of recent Knicks/Heat matchups. The last four regular season games between the teams earned 2.3 million viewers (January on ESPN), 5.1 million (February on TNT), 4.1 million (April on ABC), and 2.8 million* (November on ESPN).
One culprit for the softer numbers Thursday night could be the absence of Knicks player Carmelo Anthony, who missed the game due to injury.
Later Thursday night, Mavericks/Suns drew just 1.2 million viewers — down 32% from Suns/Warriors in 2010 (1.7M), but up 7% from Heat/Nuggets in 2010 (1.1M).
Of the 11 NBA telecasts on TNT that can be compared to 2010, seven have suffered declines in viewership.
On Wednesday night, ESPN drew 1.1 million viewers for Nuggets/Hawks and 1.4 million for Mavericks/Clippers. There were no comparable games in 2010. Last year’s Spurs/Knicks and Mavericks/Bulls doubleheader was canceled due to the owners’ lockout.
* Several Northeastern television markets, including New York City, were excluded due to Hurricane Sandy.