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Key Matchups Could Liven Up NBA Playoffs

Turner Sports and ESPN are lacing up for what it hopes will be a ratings slam dunk for their respective coverage of the National Basketball Association Playoffs.

The playoffs, which officially tipped off this past Saturday, have generally been a strong ratings generator for TNT and ESPN as the league’s biggest stars and teams are showcased over the two-month playoff run.

ESPN is hoping to build on its average 4.7 million viewers from last year’s NBA playoffs coverage over three rounds. The network launched its playoff coverage this past weekend with a scheduled tripleheader.

ESPN senior director of programming and acquisitions Doug White said this year’s playoffs should offer some compelling basketball, particularly in the Western Conference, where the defending champion San Antonio Spurs will conceivably have to get past the team with the best record, the Golden State Warriors, to get through the Western Conference to defend its title in the NBA Finals.

“There are good storylines at every turn and we expect another great postseason for the NBA and ESPN/ ABC,” White said. “Most importantly, it will be a lot of fun for basketball fans.”

TNT began its lineup of at least 40 live NBA playoff telecasts Sunday (April 19), according to network officials. The network hopes to match or surpass its 2014 first-round coverage, which drew more than 4 million viewers for 26 games — its most-viewed first round since 2011, according to Nielsen.

Overall, TNT averaged 4.6 million viewers for 46 live most-viewed playoffs in the network’s 30-year history with the league.

“There are so many intriguing story lines as we enter the NBA Playoffs, with a lot of star power and highly anticipated game matchups across both conferences,” Craig Barry, senior vice president of production and executive creative director for Turner Sports, said. “We’re looking forward to our creative and innovative showcase of all the games on TNT with our unparalleled collection of on-air talent.”

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.