Originally created 06/08/01

Game 1 draws much bigger audience than last year's



NEW YORK -- A thrilling Game 1 of the NBA Finals reversed the league's sagging TV ratings.

The Philadelphia 76ers' 107-101 upset of the Los Angeles Lakers in overtime Wednesday night drew a 12.4 national rating on NBC. That's 18 percent higher than for the Lakers' 17-point victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 last year.

Each national ratings point represents 1 percent of the estimated 102.2 million U.S. television households.

About 39 million viewers tuned in for at least part of Wednesday's broadcast, which drew 34 percent more men aged 18-to-49 - a group advertisers love to reach - than last year's Game 1 of the finals.

Philadelphia was the highest-rated market with 41, followed by Los Angeles with 32.9. The rating in New York, the country's No. 1 market, was 12.7.

The numbers propelled NBC to a prime-time victory and are encouraging for the network in the third year of its $1.75 billion, four-year NBA rights contract.

Heading into the best-of-seven finals, the network's NBA playoff ratings averaged a 4.9 nationally, 14 percent below 2000 - which had been the lowest for NBC.

Ratings in the regular season averaged a 3, 12 percent below last season.

It's a continuation of the tremendous drop in viewership for NBA games on NBC since 1998, Michael Jordan's final season, when the title series between his Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz averaged an 18.7 rating.