Even With Shaq, NBA Finals' Ratings Come Up Short

The Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal may be the biggest star in basketball right now, but initial ratings for the NBA playoffs reflect how much smaller the pro game is without Michael Jordan, based on viewing estimates issued Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.

Three games in, the NBA Finals are averaging about 15.6 million viewers, a small decrease compared to last year but down more than 40% from two seasons ago, when Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won the NBA title.

Those modest results still provided NBC a winning edge last week, just ahead of CBS, whose summer reality series "Survivor" saw its audience climb 17% over the show's premiere, beating "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" in head-to-head competition.

That said, reports of "Millionaire's" demise appear premature, as its Sunday and Tuesday editions delivered strong ratings. ABC's overall performance was dragged down by the NHL's Stanley Cup Finals, which did well relative to past hockey coverage (the series averaged 5.5 million viewers, a 12% gain versus ratings on Fox a year ago) but remain a modest prime-time attraction--easily pinned Thursday, for example, by UPN's "WWF Smackdown!"

Cable Top 10

Here are Nielsen's top 10 cable programs in prime time last week, also ranked by total viewers (in millions).


Net- View- Program work ers 1. Wrestling (Mon., 10 p.m.) USA 7.89 2. Wrestling (Mon., 9 p.m.) USA 6.92 3. "MTV Movie Awards" MTV 5.09 4. "On Hostile Ground" TBS 4.70 5. Wrestling (Mon., 8 p.m.) TNT 3.92 6. "Big Daddy" (Tue.) HBO 3.86 7. Wild Thornberrys (Mon.) NICK 3.65 8. Sex and the City HBO 3.60 9. "Arlington Road" HBO 3.49 10. "Big Daddy" (Sun.) HBO 3.38


Network Averages

Here is the number of viewers that each network averaged per hour of prime time, for last week and for the season.


Last Season week to date NBC 10.66 million 12.17 CBS 10.61 12.27 ABC 9.39 13.98 FOX 6.47 8.79 UPN 3.77 3.92 WB 2.44 3.55


Southland Viewing

Here are Nielsen's Top 10 prime-time programs in the Los Angeles area during the same week. The rankings are based on the number of households watching.


Sta- House- Program tion holds 1. Roggin's Post-Game (Sun.) KNBC 832,317 2. Millionaire (Sun.) KABC 827,083 3. Millionaire (Tue.) KABC 816,613 4. Roggin's Post-Game (Wed.) KNBC 800,909 5. "Britney in Hawaii" KTTV 612,460 6. Survivor KCBS 591,521 7. 60 Minutes KCBS 554,878 8. Millionaire (Wed.) KABC 549,644 Dateline NBC (Wed.) KNBC 549,644 The Practice KNBC 549,644

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