Larry v. Magic: NBA Still Struggling for a National Audience

Larry v. Magic: Game-by-Game Summary
Larry v. Magic: Game-by-Game Media Coverage

Preview for Game 4

January 30, 1983

It's Super Sunday, Lakers-Celtics and the NBA on CBS . . . finally.

It's nice that the network will showcase two of the league's centerfold teams today, but it hurts to note that after today's telecast, the NBA on CBS will virtually vanish until playoff time. The network has determined that Sunday pro basketball is not what the public wants in these months between the end of football and the beginning of baseball.

Ouch. It's scary to think that the network might be right. This may be a classic case of not giving the people what they don't want. Cable and local outlets satisfy the needs of rabid fans in Boston, Seattle, Portland, LA and other NBA hotbeds. Meanwhile, here's what they'll get in Dubuque: Celtics-Lakers today; the All-Star game in LA on Feb. 13; Philadelphia at New Jersey, March 6; Seattle at LA, April 15, and Philadelphia at Boston, April 17. From there, the network is committed to televising 22 playoff games.

Also, it appears that the network still thinks the NBA is full of Not Ready For Prime Time Players. CBS expects to air the championship series live, but as many as seven Wednesday and Friday night playoff games are scheduled for 11:30 EST, which means either West Coast games or tape delays. This is the first year of a four-year, $22 million contract between the NBA and CBS. It should be pointed out, however, that the $5.5 million that will be paid in the 1985-86 season is the same dollar figure that was paid for the 1981-82 season. And we're all too familiar with what happens to a dollar over five years.

"We're not at all unhappy with the contract," insists David Stern, right- hand man to commissioner Larry O'Brien and the NBA's liaison with CBS. "We're satisfied with it." "By next year," Stern points out, "we expect 20 of 23 franchises to be tied into some kind of regional cable deal. I think it's fair to say that the NBA is the pro sport most intensely involved with cable."

Cable is nice for those who follow the league and can afford the product, but it won't do anything to promote the league nationally. Only network TV can reach masses of impressionable sports fans in non-NBA, noncable towns. A pro league needs a network to attract and maintain future generations of fans and remain in the national spotlight


The Kid said...

It's crazy how much one playoff series and a draft changed the NBA in 1984.

Lex said...

Yup. No exaggerating the impact of magic and larry and then michael.

Follow by Email