The Eastern Conference finals opening game between the Bulls and Heat was the most-viewed NBA game in history on cable television, TNT announced Monday. The network's coverage of the Bulls' 103-92 romp drew 11.1 million total viewers and a 6.2 U.S. household rating, topping TNT's previous record of 10.8 million viewers for Michael Jordan's last All-Star Game, in 2003.
"From the broadcast point of view, particularly [Sunday] night when everybody was so pumped up, this goes back to the Michael Jordan days, just with the PA and the introduction of the lineups, it just gets to you," said TNT's Marv Albert, who called the game. "There aren't many places like this and for a broadcast; it's just perfect. For me, just the sight of Benny The Bull does it. I'm ready after I see Benny."
The telecast of the series opener marked a 56 percent increase in overall viewership (roughly 4 million watchers) from Game 1 of last year's Western Conference final between the Lakers and Suns, and a nearly 43 percent increase in households (7.17 million versus 5.01 million).
TNT's coverage of the 2011 playoffs thus far is up significantly from last year, averaging a 3.1 rating (a 29 percent increase), 4.99 million viewers (33 percent) and 3.63 million households (30 percent).
Turner Sports alternates covering the Eastern and Western Conference finals with ESPN/ABC every year. The latter will televise Game 1 of the Mavericks-Thunder series on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET). TNT's coverage of the Bulls-Heat series continues Wednesday with Game 2 in Chicago (8:30 p.m. ET).