Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Under Further Review: Can the Heat Make Up for Spurs' Low Ratings?

The question that will likely get the most play over the sports media airwaves over the next 36 hours will b undoubtedly be, "Who ya got in the NBA Finals, Heat or Spurs?"  And most likely, the majority of respondents will say the Heat.  But a question that will be on the minds of many in the sports media world is, "Can the Heat's large television viewer base make up for the Spurs' low viewer base?"

If you take a look at the average television in the their home local markets, according the Sports Business Journal, the Heat and the Spurs rank number-2 and number-3.  Playing on Sun Sports, Miami averaged a 7.07, while San Antonio, playing on FS Southwest, averaged a 6.44.  Miami has a population of about 408,000 while San Antonio has a population of about 1.36 million.  That gives the Spurs a pretty hefty advantage in terms of total viewers.

(The Miami Heat's increase in local viewership could be attributed to their 27 game winning streak.)

But the Heat may be holding a huge advantage in terms of national advantage, likely tuning in to see the big three (or just LeBron... or Birdman).  In their decisive Game 7 victory over the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals earlier in the week, the game pulled an 7.1 rating (11.5 million viewers).  That was good for the third most viewed show in TNT's history.  In comparison - though the comparison is not extremely strong - the Spurs' Game 4 victory to secure the series sweep over the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA Western Conference finals drew 5.2 million viewers on ESPN.

To further look at the television popularity of the two teams, the last three NBA Finals that the Heat and Spurs appeared in could give an indication to how this year will fair.  Take a look.

Miami Heat
2012 - versus OKC Thunder - 5 Games - average 16.9 million viewers*
2011 - versus Dallas Mavericks - 6 Games - average 17.28 million viewers
2006 - versus Dallas Mavericks - 6 Games - average 12.97 million viewers**

* - Game 5 drew a 40.3 rating in Miami
** - Pre-Big 3 Era

San Antonio Spurs
2007 - versus Cleveland Cavaliers - 4 Games - average 9.29 million viewers
2005 - versus Detroit Pistons - 7 Games - average 12.54 million viewers
2003 - versus New Jersey Nets - 6 Games - average 9.86 million viewers

Note: All six series listed above were shown on ABC.  And thank you to for the data.

It is important to note further that the last two NBA Finals, 2011 and 2012, that the Heat appeared in were the third and fourth highest rated NBA Finals since the series made the move from NBC to ABC beginning in 2003.  Clearly, the Heast are the bigger national draw.  The explanation probably lies somewhere between the Heat having the major casual fan draw with the Big 3 and the Spurs having the major casual fan repellent with their stereotypically boring and fundamental playing style combined with their lack of vocal, marketable stars.

My prediction is that the 2013 edition of the NBA Finals will draw somewhere between Miami's three-year NBA Finals maximum of 17.28 million viewers and San Antonio's 12.54 million viewers.  I place the over/under at 15 million viewers per game.  Personally, I'll take the under unless there is a Game 7, then things get a whole lot more interesting.

Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs tips off on Thursday night on ABC.  Will you be watching?


Kevin Rossi is a pre-junior Drexel Sport Management major with a minor in Communications. Kevin has worked at Double Eagle Golf where he is now Social Media Coordinator and Comcast-Spectacor as their market research intern. Since joining the SMTSU, Kevin has worked his way up the ladder to Vice President. Currently, Kevin is a staff writer for, and he has joined Temple University Athletics Communications for co-op this spring/summer.  Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

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