Levy: TNT's NBA Ratings To Heat Up During Season

On Monday, Turner Sports president David Levy proclaimed that he’s bullish on the ratings prospects for TNT’s coverage of the 2010-11 NBA season.

He must be smiling today after last night’s much-hyped debut of the “South Beach Three” provided a ratings slam dunk for TNT.

TNT’s Oct. 26 Miami Heat-Boston Celtics NBA regular season opening telecast drew 7.4 million viewers, the most watched regular season game in cable history, topping a 1996 Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls game against the Los Angeles Lakers, according to the network.

During an NBA/TNT luncheon Monday, Levy said he couldn’t remember a more highly anticipated NBA season opening  game than Tuesday night’s matchup between the LeBron James/Chris Bosh/Dwayne Wade-led Heat and the veteran, Eastern Conference champion Celtics.

Given the hype surrounding the Heat team, as well as the appeal of teams like the Celtics, Orlando Magic and NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, Levy said TNT’s 52-game Thursday Night slate should be able to build on the 1.7 million viewers the network averaged during last year’s campaign – its best performance since the 1995-96 season.

“Everybody has this focus on Miami, but there’s still so much competitiveness in this league — I think if you look at our schedule it will be pretty competitive every night,” Levy said. “There’s going to be a lot of intrigue, and from an advertiser’s perspective we’re seeing a lot of interest.”

The only thing that could potentially damper the momentum of the 2010-11 NBA season is the prospect of an NBA lockout next fall.  Levy said TNT has “contingency plans” in place in case of the players and owners cannot come to terms on a new labor agreement, but would not reveal specifics.

“We’re just hoping that this gets resolved and they’re playing next year. We’re always prepared — these games are important to us but at the end of the day we’ll figure out what to schedule around that,” he said.