Ever since it broke on Saturday, we at Awful Announcing have been curious to see how the Donald Sterling episode would develop as a story. After a few days, and a few massive ratings figures, it is clear that it’s one of those moments that has transcended sports. The Los Angeles Clippers are a human interest story.
First was Game 4 of their first round playoff series with the Golden State Warriors, in the midst of the mess, and with the team still unsure of what would be done with Sterling. That game drew a 5.0 rating on ABC, up from last year’s Heat-Bucks telecast. According to Sports Media Watch, it was the second-highest rated playoff game to not feature the Heat, Lakers or Knicks on ABC since they regained NBA rights in 2002.
The story exploded yesterday, with the announcement that Sterling would receive a lifetime ban and be urged to sell the Clippers. ESPN, FS1, FS2, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox News were among the networks covering the event. Two of the main basketball networks benefitted.
ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, which aired just hours following NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s press conference, drew a 1.3 overnight rating. While the final numbers are yet to come, ESPN spokesperson Bill Hofheimer tweeted that it was tracking to be the show’s highest-rated episode in three years. One would think as people got home from work, they tuned in to ESPN to see what was new, which might explain the ratings spike.
TNT certainly benefitted as well. Again, final numbers will be available later, but the network is already calling Game 5 of Warriors/Clippers “the highest-rated first round NBA Playoff game on cable since 2002.” Not only that, but Inside the NBA managed a hefty 1.7 overnight at around 1:30 a.m. ET, which likely beat every network late night talk show.
Look, we try not to trade in “Rovell-ing” things here at AA, which is what I like to call focusing too narrowly on the business side of horrible events. That said, it’s worth following how America continues to see the Clippers as a point of interest in the wake of this happening. We’ll see how long the spotlight stays on them in days to come after seeing these initial numbers.