Game 1 Rating Is Super for NBC

an overtime victory by the Philadelphia 76ers over the mighty Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

"It was one of those nights you dream about, where everything goes right from a television standpoint," NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol said Thursday.

"You bill it as David vs. Goliath, and then both David and Goliath have a good night. Most importantly, it whet the audience's appetite for more."

It also gave NBC a super L.A. rating--literally.

Wednesday night's game got a 32.9 in Los Angeles. Incredibly, it was the same rating the Super Bowl got in January.

That means those two games were watched in 32.9% of 5.35 million television households in the L.A. market.

The share for Wednesday night's game was 51, meaning it was watched in 51% of the homes where television was being viewed. The share for the Super Bowl was 59. It's higher because fewer people watch television earlier in the day, and the Super Bowl began a little after 3 p.m.

Game 1 of the Finals got a 41.0/60 in Philadelphia.

Nationally, Game 1 got a 12.4/23. The 12.4 rating is an 18% increase over the 10.5 for Game 1 last year, when the Lakers defeated the Indiana Pacers by 17 points, and is the highest for Game 1 of the Finals since 1998, when an overtime victory by the Utah Jazz over Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls got an 18.0.

The rating boost couldn't have come at a better time. NBC came into the NBA Finals averaging a 4.9 national rating for the playoffs, 14% below the 5.7 last year.

A Laker blowout would have killed NBC. Now, as Shaquille O'Neal said, "It's a series."

Shaq the Co-Host

After practice Thursday at Staples Center, O'Neal was carted across the street to the main parking lot, where a set had been erected for the television show "NBA Inside Stuff." Ahmad Rashad, the host and executive producer, had asked O'Neal to be his guest co-host, and O'Neal honored the commitment despite the previous night's overtime loss.

Bleachers were set up for a live audience of Los Angeles students, who cheered loudly when O'Neal made his entrance.

Also part of the show that will air Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on Channel 4 will be former Bruin and current Charlotte Hornet Baron Davis, serving as a special correspondent.

New Technology

A new type of tiny digital camera that covers all the angles made its sports debut Wednesday night. You may not have noticed because it was used only twice on the air--once in the second quarter and once in the third--but NBC played around a lot with it during commercial breaks. It will be used more as the series progresses.

The camera--one is mounted atop each backboard--can provide a 360-degree video or still photo image and help dissect a play. The camera is part of a technology called TotalView and was developed by the Be Here Corp. of Westwood.

"Doug Collins loves the technology," said Michael Goldfine, Be Here's director of production. "And coaches are going to love it too."

Bad Idea

Maybe NBC simply has no confidence in its cast of studio analysts, but talking heads--even P.J. Carlesimo--beat live concerts as halftime entertainment.

The halftime shows for the next two games don't figure to be much better than Wednesday night's U2 concert in Boston.

Featured tonight and Sunday will be a two-part special edition of the "Weakest Link," which is nothing more than a thinly disguised promo. Contestants will include Steve Jones, Bill Walton, Lisa Leslie and Baron Davis.

Game 4's halftime show will feature a live concert by Destiny's Child.

"Doug and I were disappointed they didn't book Dion and the Belmonts or the Shirelles," said Marv Albert.

A Vecsey Scoop?

TNT's Charles Barkley likes to kid Peter Vecsey that he's never right, but Vecsey may have hit on something Wednesday night on NBC's pregame show when he reported that Larry Brown may retire after the series.

"Everybody knows I had health problems in March and I've got two small kids," Brown told Vecsey off the air. "Other than that, I have no comment."

Pat Croce, the owner of the 76ers, said on the CNBC postgame show that he had no idea Brown was thinking about quitting.

Short Waves

NBC is on a hot streak. The NBA Finals suddenly are intriguing, the network has Jennifer Capriati in the French Open final Saturday, plus the Belmont Stakes, its got the U.S. Open next week, and on the horizon are Wimbledon and its portion of the NASCAR schedule. . . . Marion Jones, a track and field Olympian who earned a basketball letter at North Carolina, has joined the NBC team as a WNBA sideline reporter. She makes her debut Sunday. . . . Meanwhile at CBS, the Tiger Woods factor generated a 5.0 national rating for the Memorial tournament Sunday. . . . A different spin: ABC has hockey fan Michael J. Fox, former star of "Spin City," as the voice of its teases for the Stanley Cup finals. . . . Mark Shah has been named executive producer of Fox Sports Net Los Angeles. Shah has been with the regional sports network since 1990.

Fox Sports Net's "Regional Report" scored a coup Monday night, getting Phil Jackson to sit alongside hosts Todd Donoho and Gaard Swanson for the entire half-hour show Monday night. Among the good points made by the Laker coach was this one: "One of the things people don't recognize is that the 76ers are a great offensive team, but it's their defense, their ability to create and score off of turnovers, steals and blocked shots . . . "

Bill Clinton may have been out in the sun too long when he said on USA this week that he thought John McEnroe would have a good career in politics. . . . CBS will televise Saturday's College World Series game between USC and Georgia, with Greg Gumbel and Ray Knight announcing. KMPC (1540) will broadcast the game, with Rory Markas reporting. . . . KMPC will also carry the Belmont on Saturday. . . . Joe McDonnell and Doug Krikorian of ESPN Radio (1110) will again be broadcasting from the Holiday Inn across the street from Staples Center today and raffling off tickets to tonight's game.

In Closing

Crib has new meaning for Jim Rome these days since the arrival of his son Jake two months ago. Rome celebrated his third anniversary of doing Fox Sports Net's "The Last Word" this week, and said eventually he is going to have to make a decision between radio and TV.

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What Los Angeles Is Watching

A sampling of L.A. Nielsen ratings for June 2-3:

SATURDAY

*--*

Over-the-air Channel Rating Share Tennis: French Open 4 4.6 13 Golf: PGA Memorial tournament 2 3.2 9 Baseball: Dodgers at Houston 11 2.5 7 Stanley Cup Finals: Colorado at New Jersey 7 2.4 5 Golf: LPGA Women's U.S. Open 4 1.6 5

*--*

*

*--*

Cable Network Rating Share Baseball: Kansas City at Angels FSN 1.2 2 Horse racing: Hollywood Park Today FSN2 1.1 4 Auto racing: Busch Grand National 200 FX 0.5 1 Auto racing: Winston Cup Happy Hour FX 0.3 1 Drag racing: NHRA Route 66 Nationals qualifying ESPN2 0.4 1 NFL Europe: Rhein at Amsterdam FSN 0.2 0

*--*

*

SUNDAY

*--*

Over-the-air Channel Rating Share NBA playoffs: Milwaukee at Philadelphia 4 12.4 24 Golf: PGA Memorial tournament 2 6.1 16 Tennis: French Open 4 4.1 11 Golf: LPGA Women's U.S. Open 4 3.1 8 Auto racing: Winston Cup MBNA Platinum 400 11 2.9 7 Baseball: Dodgers at Houston 5 1.8 5 Auto racing: CART Miller Lite 225 7 1.4 3 Baseball: Kansas City at Angels 9 0.8 2

*--*

*

*--*

Cable Network Rating Share Horse racing: Hollywood Park Today FSN2 1.2 3 Drag racing: NHRA Prestone Route 66 Nationals ESPN2 0.9 2 Baseball: Cincinnati at St. Louis ESPN 0.6 1 Tennis: French Open USA 0.6 2 Baseball: Atlanta at Pittsburgh TBS 0.5 1 Swimming and diving: FINA/USA Grand Prix (tape) FSN 0.5 1 Track and field: Princeton Invitational (tape) ESPN 0.4 1 Golf: Senior PGA BellSouth Classic CNBC 0.3 1 Pro basketball: WNBA, Seattle at Washington ESPN2 0.3 1 Pro football: Arena League, Arizona at New York TNN 0.1 0

*--*

Weekday ratings: MONDAY--Stanley Cup Finals, Colorado at New Jersey, Ch. 7, 2.9/5. WEDNESDAY--NBA Finals, Philadelphia at Lakers, Ch. 4, 32.9/51.

Note: Each rating point represents 53,542 L.A. households. Cable ratings reflect the entire market, even though cable is in only 63% of L.A. households.

Look Who's Talking

Sports figures to be featured on TV and radio, today through Thursday:

Pat Croce, David Stern, Magic Johnson--"Lakers Zone" pregame show, today, 4 p.m., KLAC (570)

Bill Shoemaker--"SportsCentury," tonight, 5 and 8, ESPN Classic

Snoop Dogg, Paul Pierce, Pat Croce--"The Last Word With Jim Rome," tonight, 5:30 and 11:30, Fox Sports Net

Bob Baffert--"Trackside With Roger Stein," Saturday, 8-9 a.m., KLAC (570)

Shaquille O'Neal (co-host), Baron Davis (special correspondent), Rick Fox--"NBA Inside Stuff," Saturday, 10:30 a.m., Channel 4

Ben Crenshaw, Hollywood Park racing secretary Martin Panza--"The Irv Kaze Show," Saturday, 6-7 p.m., KRLA (870)

Sean Elliott--"Beyond the Glory," Sunday, 8 p.m., Fox Sports Net

Jose Navarro, Francisco "Panchito" Bajado (in studio), Hector Camacho Jr., Ingemar Johansson--"Ringside With Johnny Ortiz," Sunday, 8-10 p.m., KSPN (1110)

Alvin Gentry--"Southern California Sports Report," Monday, 10, Fox Sports Net

Greg Norman--"SportsCentury," Tuesday

Sigi Schmid, Cobi Jones, Paul Caligiuri--"This Week in Southern California," Wednesday, 6 p.m., Fox Sports Net 2

Arnold Palmer--"SportsCentury," Thursday

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