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TNT Looks for NBA All-Star Assist

Turner Network Television hopes the strong showing for its Feb. 9 National Basketball Association All-Star Game telecast will boost its underperforming slate of Thursday-night regular-season contests.

The network set a cable record for a basketball game, garnering some 10.8 million viewers and an 8.2 household mark (6.6 on a national basis) for the final All-Star appearance of NBA superstar Michael Jordan.

The All-Star game, televised for the first time on cable, elevated TNT to first place in the household ratings wars during the week of Feb. 3 through Feb. 9, with a 2.6 household average.

It also reached more males 18 to 34 and adults 18 to 34 than any professional all-star game since NBC's telecast of Major League Baseball's contest in 1998, according to Turner Sports president Mark Lazarus.

TNT's Feb. 8 primetime coverage of the All-Star Saturday Night festivities — including the slam-dunk and three-point shooting contests — averaged a 3.6 rating, up over last year's 3.4 rating.

The game exceeded expectations and validated TNT's decision to acquire the event as part of its six-year, $2.2 billion NBA deal, Lazarus added.

Coming off its All-Star game success, Lazarus is confident TNT's second-half regular season schedule, which includes two contests between the champion Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings, will bounce NBA ratings upward.

While the network's 1.1 rating from the season's first half was up slightly from its 1.0 mark for Thursday-night telecasts last year, the network is flat overall compared to Turner's three-night NBA coverage, which included a weekly game on TBS Superstation.

"We're off a little from what we expected, but we know that we have a bit of a backload in terms of the quality of our schedule matchups," Lazarus said.

The network has also added a Feb. 18 Lakers-Houston Rockets game. The Jan. 17 meeting — featuring the first matchup between rookie center Yao Ming and Shaquille O'Neal — generated a 3.8 rating for ESPN.