The Indiana Pacers grabbed the attention of a big chunk of the local TV market on Sunday, drawing nearly 10 times the audience they did for their regular-season games.
After several years of struggles, the Pacers have packed Bankers Life Fieldhouse each of the last two home games in their second-round National Basketball Association playoff series with the Miami Heat, and television ratings are back to numbers not seen in years.
Sunday’s game, which aired on WRTV-TV Channel 6, drew an 18.2 rating, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research. That means about 195,200 central Indiana households tuned in. Nielsen reported that 36.1 percent of central Indiana households watching TV from 3:30 p.m. to just after 6 p.m. were tuned into the game, which the Pacers lost, 101-93.
Those are numbers that rival viewership for Indianapolis Colts regular-season games.
For the regular season, the Pacers averaged a 2.4 rating, or about 25,730 households on Fox Sports Indiana.
As the team has improved the last two seasons, its TV ratings have been slowly building.
This year’s regular-season ratings were up 12 percent over the 2010-2011 season, which was up 35 percent over the 2009-2010 season. The Pacers are one of a small handful of NBA teams that have seen double-digit TV-ratings increases the last two seasons.
But Sunday’s audience was a giant leap.
“Those were huge numbers for an NBA game,” said WRTV spokesman Paul Montgomery.
The game helped WRTV beat its network-affiliate competitors on Sunday afternoon. During the same time slot, WISH-TV Channel 8 registered a 1.4 rating for the Byron Nelson Classic golf match and WTHR-TV Channel 13 scored a 0.1 rating in the local market for a National Hockey League playoff game, according to Nielsen.