The Hollywood Reporter has a pretty good look at the NBA finals from the broadcasting perspective. The authors, Steven Zeitchik and Paul J. Gough look at the strategy for ESPN and ABC in putting together the broadcasts of the series, which starts on Thursday night.

There will be a heavy nostalgic angle pushed to the viewer, with the purpose of “educating” the average fan about the storied Celtics/Lakers rivalry. Expect plenty of shots of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in the intros and bumpers around commercial breaks.

ESPN will televise a three-hour primetime SportsCenter NBA Finals Special devoted to Game 6 of the 1987 NBA Finals – the last time the Celtics and Lakers met in The Finals – tonight at 7 p.m.  The telecast will include game footage, interviews with participants, and a look ahead at the 2008 NBA Finals.

The Hollywood Reporter article also quotes USC professor and sports consultant David Carter as saying that the NBA’s strategy in the past of hitching their wagons to individual stars hasn’t gone so well for them, and that “This is a great opportunity for the NBA to pull back and focus on team brands again. The league can reposition its marketing messaging.”

In addition to the league, the article states that this is a crucial series for the broadcasters as well, who sunk $7.6 billion into their last TV deal with the league and need to see some ratings juice. They could get it.

Some forecasts estimate the household rating for the finals between a 10 and 12, depending on how close the games are and how long the series goes. If it hits the high end of that range — a result execs say is plausible given the ratings rebound during the regular season — it would mark the best number since the Lakers-Philadelphia 76ers series of 2001 (12.1) though still well shy of the midteen numbers the ’90s Bulls and ’80s Lakers series regularly generated. (The 1987 Lakers-Celtics Finals, for instance, averaged a 16.7 household rating.)

The expectation also ups the pressure on ABC to make this a blowout year. “If the numbers don’t get into the double digits, they won’t have the excuse of being able to say they didn’t have the right teams,” one sports insider said.

As with the Eastern Conference finals, each ABC broadcast of the best-of-seven NBA Finals will be called by Mike Breen with analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy and reporter Michele Tafoya. Stuart Scott will host the pre-game show, originating from the site of each game, with analysts Jon Barry and Michael Wilbon.

(Can you remember one thing Michael Wilbon said in the ECF? I thought not. It’s like Tony Kornheiser on Monday Night Football. Apparently these guys are good on Pardon The Interruption and not much else…)

Here is the TV schedule for the series:

The Finals on ABC Schedule (Best of 7)
*** All Game Broadcasts at 9 p.m. ET ***

Date                               Game
Thu., June 5 Game 1: L.A. Lakers at Boston
Sun., June 8 Game 2: L.A. Lakers at Boston
Tues, June 10 Game 3: Boston at L.A. Lakers
Thu., June 12 Game 4: Boston at L.A. Lakers
Sun., June 15 Game 5: Boston at L.A. Lakers*
Tue., June 17 Game 6: L.A. Lakers at Boston*
Thu., June 19 Game 7: L.A. Lakers at Boston*
* if necessary

Here are a few Celtics/NBA Finals links for the afternoon:

Chad Finn nails a three pointer and gets fouled at the buzzer with his post on the 22 years of Celtics history since their last NBA championship. A must read.

After dogging the Celtics all season, Ian Thomsen comes around and thinks that the C’s have a better chance of winning this series than many experts think they do.

Bill Simmons debunks 15 myths regarding the Celtics/Lakers rivalry, including the topic of whether it actually is a rivalry at all.

Greg Boeck talks with Jerry West about Celtics/Lakers. The former Lakers player and executive has a lot of history in this series.

The ESPN TrueHoop Blog reviewed the two Celtics/Lakers games this season and came away with some interesting conclusions.

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4 thoughts on “NBA Finals Broadcasts To Push Nostagia Storyline

  1. If the NBA is looking for big ratings from this year’s Finals, why are they broadcasting all the games at such a ridiculous time?

    While some people will tell me to “suck it up” it really makes no sense to me that there is not even ONE game starting before 9PM EST.

  2. This is what I don’t understand about the how the NBA and MLB schedule their playoffs. Every game is a 9:00 tipoff and not a single game is on a Friday or Saturday nite. This basically ensures that most kids will be fast asleep by the end of the game, most likely having hit the sheets by the half. I know the late starts are done to appease west coast viewers, but it is very short sighted thinking. They are shutting out their next generation of paying fans.

    As for me, I’ll be watching from my couch instead of getting together with friends or going out to a bar as I would if any of the games were earlier or on the weekend. The alarm clock goes off at 5:00AM M-F regardless of what time tipoff is. Damn I sound old.

  3. I agree with both Andrew and DV. It’s always about the money with MLB and the NBA. It’s completely ridiculous that the NBA is starting ALL of the games at 920pm and NON of the games are on Fri or Sat. A stupid and short sighted broadcast strategy. They should at least start the Sunday games by 5 or 6pm. The way they are doing it now they are completely losing the casual viewer that might have tuned in if it started earlier.

  4. Also Thur-Sun breaks are insane. Talk about removing all momentum and killing off any buzz. Horrible decisions that are supposedly designed to boost ratings, but actually they hurt ratings. If the games are compelling, people will watch and get their friends to watch even if it is a Friday or Saturday night. Also people will watch a Sunday Afternoon game. I’m pretty sure the NFL does alright with those games, and since this is a historical NBA Finals matchup they can at least muster ratings similar if not slightly better than a Sunday afternoon game, but of course it’s not “Primetime”. Ugh!!

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