Santa Scores: NBA Delivers Merry Xmas Ratings For ESPN, ABC, Marketers

December 27, 2010: Santa brought a ratings gift to ABC, sibling ESPN and NBA commissioner David Stern on Dec. 25: The best NBA cumulative Christmas Day TV showing ever and the highest ratings for a regular season game on ABC since 2004.

In addition to the NBA and its media partners, among the marketers that benefited from the boost in viewers were T-Mobile, Nike, BBVA, General Motors, Orbitz and LG ELectronics, all of which had spots and/or new campaigns.

According to figures released by the Disney Co. divisions, ABC's doubleheader — the Miami Heat vs. the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics vs. the Orlando Magic — averaged a 5.5 national rating, which was up 45% over Christmas Day 2009. Meanwhile,  ESPN's three telecasts were up a cumulative 20% on ESPN versus 2009  (1.8 vs. 1.5).

Delivering the best numbers were the Heat, led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, which not only beat the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers and Kobe Bryant, 96-80, but also hit a 6.4 in the national ratings on ABC. That was an increase of 45% over the same broadcast window on Dec. 25, 2009, when James, then with the Cleveland Cavaliers, faced Bryant and the Lakers (4.4 rating). More importantly it was ABC's highest rating for an NBA regular season game since Christmas Day in 2004 (7.3), when Wade and the Heat faced Bryant and the Lakers).

ABC's earlier game, the Celtics visiting the Magic, pulled down a garnered a 4.6 national rating, an increase of 39% over last year's match up, which featured the same teams. Adding to this year's drama was the fact that the Celtics entered the game with a 14-game winning streak, which was snapped by Dwight Howard and the Magic, 86-76.

NBA Xmas Day on ABC and ESPN included new spots from T-Mobile with Charles Barkley and Dwyane Wade.The NBA's Christmas Day coverage began on ESPN with the Chicago Bulls visiting the New York Knicks. The national telecast, a 103-95 Knicks victory, registered a 2.7 national rating, up 42% over the Miami Heat-New York telecast in 2009 (1.9 rating).

Following ABC's doubleheader, coverage returned to ESPN with a doubleheader, beginning with the host Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant defeating the Denver Nuggets, 114-106, which registered a 1.4 fast national rating, up 27% over last year's telecast (Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns). In the second game, the Portland Trail Blazers lost to the host Golden State Warriors, 109-102,with the telecast earning a 1.3 fast national rating, which broke even with the 2009 showing (Denver-Portland).

“Christmas Day is a highlight on the NBA calendar," Mark Tatum, NBA evp-global marketing partnerships, said in a statement. For first-year NBA partner BBVA, it was "the perfect opportunity for BBVA to demonstrate its commitment to teamwork. These games [were] a great showcase for one of our newest marketing partners [to unveil] its first NBA-themed campaign, illustrating how our official bank strives to be a great teammate and create winning experiences for NBA fans.”

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