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TNT's Thunder-Spurs Series Coverage Draws Nearly 8 Million Viewers

Despite featuring two NBA teams from small markets, TNT's coverage of the Oklahoma City Thunder-San Antonio Spurs Western Conference finals series was a ratings slam dunk, averaging nearly 8 million viewers, according to network officials.

Last night's Game 6 coverage of the Western Conference Finals -- in which the Kevin Durant-led Thunder defeated a veteran Spurs team to clinch a spot in the NBA Finals -- drew 9.4 million viewers, up 30% in ratings compared to the network's last Game 6 telecast between the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns in 2010, said TNT.

Overall the Thunder-Spurs series averaged a 5.0 U.S. household rating and 7.8 million viewers, up 16% in U.S. household rating and 13% among total viewers compared with ESPN's coverage of last year's Western Conference Finals between the Thunder and Dallas Mavericks.

TNT's 2011 coverage of the Miami Heat-Chicago Bulls Eastern Conference Finals averaged a cable-record 8.6 million viewers over the five-game series won by the Heat.

TNT's high ratings came despite neither team representing a top 25 TV market -- Oklahoma City ranks 44th in the country and San Antonio is DMA No. 36.

During the 2012 postseason, TNT's delivered its second most-viewed and second highest-rated playoffs in its 28-year history with the league. TNT's 42 telecasts averaged a 3.1 U.S. rating, nearly 3.6 million households and just under 4.82 million viewers on average. With the 2011 playoffs, TNT averaged a 3.5 rating and 5.53 million viewers, the top marks in cable history.

For its part, ESPN will look to continue its strong Eastern Conference Finals coverage tonight with Game 6 of the Boston Celtics-Miami Heat series, which the Celtics can close out with a win at home. Game 4 of the series drew an ESPN record 11.07 million viewers, while Game 5 garnered 10.2 million viewers, according to the network.

Through five games, the series has averaged 9.3 million viewers, up 35% from ESPN's 2011 coverage of the Thunder-Dallas Mavericks. As such, it's on pace to become the most-watched NBA playoff series in cable history.

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.