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Turner’s NBA Ad Sales Pacing Ahead of Last Year’s

Coming off record ratings and ad sales for its postseason Major League Baseball telecasts, Turner is now pacing ahead of last season in its NBA telecast sales as the season opens on Tuesday night with a TNT doubleheader.

TNT, which will again televise 53 NBA games this season, has currently sold 5% more TV commercial ad volume for the season than it sold last year at this point. And NBA TV, which Turner also sells, is pacing 12% ahead of last season’s ad sales., which Turner also manages and sells, is currently pacing 46% more in ad volume compared to last season.

Jon Diament, executive VP of Turner Sports ad sales & marketing, said he finds the numbers exceptional because last season just prior to the start of the telecast schedule, TNT had sold more ad inventory than it had since it began televising NBA games 30 years ago. Now those totals are being surpassed.

“Last season we had the major storyline of LeBron James moving from the Miami Heat to the Cleveland Cavaliers and everything surrounding that, and it turned out to be one of our strongest seasons ever,” he said. “So for us to be pacing ahead of that is really pretty good.”

And much like last season, it’s not really the ratings that are driving marketers to jump into the NBA in a big way. Despite James and the success he had in driving the Cavaliers into the NBA Finals, regular season ratings were stifled a bit by the poor seasons had by teams in some of the largest markets from teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and New York Knicks.

Just how much of an impact did those teams’ games have on TNT’s ratings? The network’s games involving the Celtics declined 42% in the ratings from the previous season. Its Knicks telecasts fell 19%, and its Laker outings declined 13%.

TNT, despite those ratings declines by some once marquee teams, held steady in its overall viewership last season, averaging 2 million viewers for its Thursday night games; for its complete 53-game regular season schedule, it averaged 1.9 million viewers, down just 100,000 from the 2014-15 season. Much of that was boosted by Cavaliers and (eventual champion) Golden State Warriors telecasts, among others. But live sports events, including NBA games, continue to be a major draw for advertisers.

Diament said the NBA games are not only live and DVR-proof, for the most part, but the audience is younger than both the NFL and college football audiences and is a better target for millennial consumers. Additionally, the fourth quarter is a time when many marketers want to reach consumers for the upcoming holidays, and the Thursday night games are particularly attractive tofor targeting weekend shoppers.