Indiana Pacers fans are watching their team on television in big numbers this postseason—even bigger numbers than last year.
The Indianapolis market scored the highest nationwide rating for game one on Sunday, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research.
The game, which aired locally on ABC affiliate WRTV-TV Channel 6, registered an average rating of 14.4 and a 24 share, which means almost a quarter of the market was watching. At its peak in the fourth quarter, almost 200,000 central Indiana households tuned in, representing nearly 30 percent of the market.
WABC-TV in New York, home of the Knicks, scored a 9.1 rating and 19 share for Sunday’s game one.
Despite its lower rating, more than three times as many TV households in the New York City area (close to 700,000) watched game one than did those in central Indiana. They probably didn’t like what they saw, as the No. 3 seeded Pacers defeated the No. 2 seeded Knicks in New York.
Tuesday’s game two on TNT scored a 7.23 rating in the Indianapolis market. It would have been much higher had the Pacers not tanked in the fourth quarter. Early on the rating was 9.26 and spiked at 9.75 in the third and early fourth quarter, according to Nielsen. Then the wheels fell off the Pacers and the rating fell to 4.72 late in the fourth quarter.
Last year, the rating for game one in the second round against Miami was 11.7 and game two was a 9.5. Game one against the Heat last year was played on a Sunday on ABC and game two was played on a Tuesday on TNT.
This year’s average rating for the second round is 2.1 percent higher than last year, and again, would have been much higher had the Pacers not got blown out by 26 points in game two Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Sunday game this year easily made WRTV the local ratings winner. During the heart of the Pacers game from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., the next-highest rating was WXIN-TV Channel 59, which was airing Fox’s NASCAR race coverage.
Local NASCAR fans clearly were switching over to the Pacers game. The NASCAR race was pulling an 11.78 rating in this market shortly before the Pacers and Knicks tipped off, then dipped into single digits after the game began. WXIN’s ratings fell all the way to 4.47 during the heat of the game, then rebounded to 12.99 after it ended.
Indianapolis is usually one of the top three markets for NASCAR telecasts, and is often No. 2 behind Charlotte, N.C., where the series is headquartered.
While the Pacers game was airing on WRTV, WISH-TV Channel 8 was scoring ratings of 2.0 to 4.4 with CBS’ coverage of the PGA Tour. WTHR-TV Channel 13 was stuck below 1.0 with NBC’s coverage of the National Hockey League playoffs.
WRTV isn’t the only station smiling about the Pacers’ playoff success. According to Nielsen, the ratings of round one games versus Atlanta that aired on Fox Sports Indiana were up 15 percent over round one games last year on the network.
Round one games last year against Orlando earned a 5.49 rating while the Pacers-Atlanta games this year on Fox Sports Indiana scored 6.34. That means about 68,000 central Indiana homes on average tuned in.
Momentum this year is spilling into anticipation for next year, Fox Sports Indiana officials said, and several sponsor deals for the 2013-14 season have already been signed.
“We’re pleased with the momentum and excitement,” said Fox Sports spokesman David Pokorny. “The fans are engaged and really interested, and our sales staff is hearing quite a bit of buzz.”
With tip time for game three of the Pacers-Knicks series in Indianapolis set for 8 p.m. Saturday and with the game airing on ABC (WRTV), ratings will likely return to strong double-digits.
Photo: Associated Press