Heat-Cavs TV pre-game outdraws game

As expected, a few people tuned in to watch LeBron James return to Cleveland. The ultra-hyped Heat-Cavaliers game on Thursday night on TNT grabbed more eyeballs than the competing NFL game on NFL Network. But according to a report from USA Today, the viewers didn't stick around long:

TNT's telecast of James and the Miami Heat vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers drew a 5.0 overnight TV rating, up 257% from the 1.4 rating for the corresponding Boston-San Antonio game last season.

LeBron's "Return" to Cleveland also bested the 4.1 overnight rating for the NFL Network's telecast of the Philadelphia Eagles vs. the Houston Texans by 22%.

The NBA game averaged a whopping 25.4 overnight rating in the Cleveland TV market compared to 14.9 in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area.

Ratings peaked at 6.7 from 8:15 - 8:30 p.m, then declined as the Heat took control.

Interestingly, TNT's pregame show from 8-8:11 p.m ET with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson setting the scene at the frenzied arena outdrew the game itself, pulling a 5.9 rating.

As we highlighted yesterday, the frenzy inside The Q may have held more entertainment value to the American public than the actual game. And the cited ratings reflected that appeal.

People wanted to see what Cleveland fans had in store for LeBron James. Leading up to the game, we heard about batteries, potential riots, obscene signs, heightened security, and venomous chants. We saw the burning jerseys, the YouTube videos, and the series of press conferences leading up to the game. We read about the pain in Cleveland, the bitterness in the Cavs locker room, and the complicated relationship of LeBron James and his hometown.

We were promised more WWE than NBA.

So maybe we shouldn't be surprised that people tuned into the pre-game than those who stuck around to watch the outcome. For many viewers, the televised event was a window into American culture and a basketball game just happened to break out. And a pretty ugly one at that.