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preseasonal

NBA on TNT

The NBA on TNT, known since October 2002 as TNT NBA Thursday, is a weekly broadcast of National Basketball Association games on Turner Network Television by Turner Sports, perhaps TNT's signature program. TNT began airing NBA games in 1988, and aired games on multiple nights of the week (usually twice a week with sister network TBS airing another game on another night) until 2002.

Coverage

Overview

TNT airs many of the NBA's marquee games (the NBA All-Star Game, a full Conference Final, Opening Night games (and the vast majority of playoff games), and is regarded by many NBA fans as the equivalent of what NBC was during their coverage of the league. TNT would seem to be the preferred carrier to the NBA as well; from 2003 to 2005, TNT aired the Conference Final with the most interest from the national media (Spurs-Mavericks in 2003, Lakers-Wolves in 2004 and Pistons-Heat in 2005). TNT also airs most of the big games during the regular season (TNT aired a Lakers-Heat game for the third straight year in 2007), and TNT studio content is streamed to NBA.com via the TNT Overtime section.

Studio team

The host of the NBA on TNT since its inception is Ernie Johnson Jr. Currently, Johnson is joined by Kenny "The Jet" Smith and Charles Barkley. The NBA postgame show which features the three, Inside the NBA, has gained popularity in recent years for the chemistry and banter they have. Occasionally, Johnson, Smith and Barkley are joined by Chris Webber, Magic Johnson or Reggie Miller.

Playoff coverage

TNT's playoff coverage, nicknamed 40 Games in 40 Nights, has entered its 20th year. In previous years, TNT and TBS aired doubleheaders opposite each other each night of the first round of the playoffs, with one network airing a doubleheader at 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and the other network airing a doubleheader at 8:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. (all times Eastern).

In 2007, TNT aired the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time.

2000-2002

Starting in 2000, the NBA spread out playoff series so that only two series would play per day (so as to avoid TNT and TBS competing for ratings). TNT would air doubleheaders on most weekdays, while TBS would air one doubleheader per week (in 2002, TBS aired doubleheaders every Tuesday night of the playoffs until the Conference Finals).

Since 2003

With the advent of the new NBA television deal in 2003 (which shut TBS completely out of NBA coverage), TNT has aired playoff games alone, including (in 2003 only) some weekday tripleheaders. The tripleheaders, which were criticized by both fans and many in the media, consisted of one game at 6:00 p.m., another at 8:30 p.m., and a final game at 11:00 p.m. After 2003, the NBA and TNT discontinued the tripleheaders, instead settling for a doubleheader on TNT and a single game on NBA TV simultaneously.

Coverage anomalies

On isolated occasions since the new TV deal, TBS has aired NBA games. In 2003, TBS aired a doubleheader of first round Game 6 matchups (Indiana vs. Boston, followed by San Antonio vs. Phoenix). On May 22, 2006, due to the San Antonio Spurs-Dallas Mavericks Game 7 going overtime, TBS aired part of the Los Angeles Clippers-Phoenix Suns Game 7. On May 14, 2004, the same situation arose, as Game 5 of the New Jersey Nets-Detroit Pistons playoff series went three overtimes. However, due to scheduling conflicts with TBS, TNT had to air part of the Sacramento Kings-Minnesota Timberwolves game that was supposed to follow on NBA TV. In 2007, the start of San Antonio Spurs-Phoenix Suns Game 4 aired on TBS due to the length of the New Jersey Nets-Cleveland Cavaliers game.

Non-U.S. franchise coverage

Because the market lies outside the network's saleable broadcast zone, the TNT rarely shows regular season games from the Toronto Raptors - the NBA's lone non-United States based franchise. The last Toronto Raptors regular season game shown on the network was during the Vince Carter era. However, TNT games are frequently broadcast in Canada on The Score Television Network, Raptors NBA TV, and TSN during the post-season.

Announcing teams

The lead announcing team for the NBA on TNT was Marv Albert and Steve Kerr, with Doug Collins joining them for important regular season games, the NBA All-Star Game and the Conference Finals, however Kerr left TNT to become the general manager of the Phoenix Suns. Past lead broadcasting teams for TNT include Dick Stockton and Hubie Brown, who worked as a team dating back to The NBA on CBS and continued doing games together until 2002, when Brown left the broadcast booth to coach in the NBA. Bob Neal and Reggie Theus also worked as a lead team for TNT for several years. Several prominent NBA analysts have chosen TNT over ABC or ESPN, such as Doug Collins and Charles Barkley (Barkley was not only approached by ABC about an NBA studio job in 2002, but as also rumored to have been approached for a job on Monday Night Football). Reggie Miller was also sought out by ABC and ESPN, only to go to TNT.

The biggest TNT acquisition once sought out by ABC and ESPN was Marv Albert. After the 2002 NBA Finals, Albert, essentially a free agent, was a candidate for the lead spot on The NBA on ABC. Albert, hired by TNT in 1999, decided to stay with the network. Some attributed this to the fact that TNT gave Albert his first chance to be on national television after the embarrassing sex scandal that forced his firing at NBC.

Hubie Brown and Jeff Van Gundy are currently the only former TNT announcers working for ABC. Brown, whose role on TNT was going to be significantly reduced starting with the 2002-03 NBA season, left in 2002 to coach the Memphis Grizzlies. After two seasons of coaching, he left Memphis in early 2004 (leading to the departure from TNT of lead analyst Mike Fratello, who replaced him in Memphis) and was quickly picked up by ABC. Jeff Van Gundy, who was fired by the Houston Rockets after they lost in the first round, joined ABC at the beginning of the Western Conference Finals. Part-time TNT broadcaster Mike Breen is now the lead broadcaster for ABC and once-time TNT analyst Doc Rivers worked for ABC in 2004.

Music

TNT's current NBA game theme was written by composer Trevor Rabin. In addition to that theme, TNT frequently uses the instrumental from the Fort Minor song, "Remember the Name".

Ratings

Since becoming the main cable participant in the NBA's television deal (a deal that includes an entire Conference Final each season) TNT's NBA ratings have improved dramatically in the postseason from prior years. While regular season ratings for TNT NBA Thursday are the same or slightly higher than years before, postseason ratings have delivered TNT several of the highest rated NBA games on cable in history. The NBA All-Star Game delivered TNT's highest ever NBA rating in 2003, while the Conference Finals in 2004 and 2005 set playoff cable ratings records in back-to-back years.

In 2006, TNT's NBA playoff ratings were down slightly in the first round (from a record high the previous year), up significantly in the second round, but down twenty percent in the marquee Conference Final. For the first time ever, ESPN's Conference Final coverage out-rated TNT's (4.8 to 4.6), and TNT's Conference Final coverage finished at its lowest level since 2003. Still, NBA Playoff coverage helped TNT win the ratings race for the season, and TNT scored the highest-rated first round NBA Playoff game on cable in history with Game 6 of the Phoenix Suns-Los Angeles Lakers series.

While TNT's playoff ratings usually range from respectable to very high, regular season ratings are typically between a 1.0 and 1.6 rating (similar to ESPN's ratings). In 2006, ratings were expected to drop somewhat in late November-December due to several NBA doubleheaders going up head-to-head against NFL games on the NFL Network.

Contract history

Seasons Contracts Amount
1988-89 to 1989-90 $50 million/2 years
1990-91 to 1993-94 $275 million/4 years
1994-95 to 1997-98 $397 million/4 years
1998-99 to 2001-02 $840 million/4 years
2002-03 to 2007-08 $2.2 billion/6 years

TNT's NBA contract is up at the end of the 2007-08 NBA season. NBA Commissioner David Stern was trying to extend the current television deals by the end of 2006, which could mean that TNT's coverage would extend into the next decade.

Trivia

In the video game NBA 07, made by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3 consoles, graphics for TNT's NBA games is seen when playing an exhibition, playoff, preseasonal, or seasonal game. Same for NBA Live 99.

References

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