The viewership story for the NBA continues to be very positive. Over the weekend, the league delivered its most-watched opening weekend for the playoffs on ABC and ESPN in eleven years. One game stood out above the others, as the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets delivered the largest audience for a first-round game in six years.
Jayson Tatum’s buzzer-beating lay-in provided an exciting finish. That is around the time the audience for the ABC broadcast peaked with 9.85 million viewers. On the whole, the game averaged just under 7 million viewers. The Lakers and Suns played in the comparable window last season. The 2022 audience 51% larger.
ESPN and ABC carried five of the eight games of the playoffs’ opening weekend. The two games on ABC averaged an audience of over 5.7 million viewers per game. The three games on ESPN drew an average audience larger than 3 million. Both numbers are more than 30% better than the same weekend in 2021.
Space City Home Network to Debut in Houston Tuesday
The rebranded regional sports network has been acquired by the Houston Astros and the Houston Rockets from Warner Bros. Discovery.
Space City Home Network, previously known as AT&T SportsNet Southwest, will debut in Houston Tuesday.
The rebranded regional sports network has been acquired by the Houston Astros and the Houston Rockets from Warner Bros. Discovery, with the two professional sports teams joining forces to form their own cable outlet. Both the Rockets and Astros have long held an interest in acquiring the network. A report from March of this year claimed the two franchises were working alongside WBD to gain control of the cable channel.
“The change will be a seamless transition for fans as they will be able to continue to access Rockets and Astros games on the same channels they currently utilize,” the Astros said in a statement. “The network will be owned by the Rockets and Astros going forward and will operate as a joint venture of the two organizations.”
“We’ve had a strong relationship with the talent and staff at AT&T SportsNet in broadcasting Rockets games over the years and are excited to have that live on as Space City Home Network,” said Rockets President of Business Operations Gretchen Sheirr. “We’ve worked alongside the Astros and network personnel to ensure this will be a smooth changeover for our fans and look forward to the positive impact this collaboration and local ownership will have on our broadcast.”
The first live game broadcast will take place on Wednesday, October 10th, as the Rockets will open their preseason schedule against the Indiana Pacers. The Houston Astros will make their debut on the network in 2024.
Space City Home Network launches just days before the Astros begin their quest to win back-to-back World Series championships. The Astros will face the winner of the Minnesota Twins/Toronto Blue Jays series in the American League Divisional Series later this month.
NBC Adding Jordan Cornette, Zora Stephenson, Noah Eagle to Big Ten Basketball Coverage
Peacock will exclusively carry up to 47 men’s basketball games and 30 women’s basketball games, varying between conference and non-conference matchups.
Last week, Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reported that Robbie Hummel would be leaving ESPN to contribute analysis on NBC Sports and FOX Sports’ coverage of Big Ten basketball. The Post now reports that he will be joined by several other established sports media personalities as the property reorganizes.
Jordan Cornette, a former college basketball analyst with ESPN and the ACC Network, will be joining NBC Sports as a studio analyst for Big Ten men’s basketball games. Cornette was laid off by ESPN as part of its round of talent cuts earlier this summer after spending almost five years with the network.
Additionally, he hosted an ESPN Radio program alongside his wife, ESPN host and reporter Shae Peppler Cornette.
Zora Stephenson will serve as the lead play-by-play announcer on Peacock, expanding her role with NBC Sports. She has previously been on the call for Milwaukee Bucks games and currently serves as the sideline reporter for the network’s presentation of Notre Dame football. Stephenson played collegiate basketball at Elon University.
Lastly, Noah Eagle will retain his role as the lead play-by-play announcer on Big Ten coverage, joining the basketball package throughout the season. Eagle currently serves as the voice of B1G Saturday Night and will also be calling several Brooklyn Nets games on YES Network throughout the season. Eagle, 25, is largely thought of as a rising star in the media industry, and his father, Ian, is set to become the new lead voice of the Final Four for CBS and TBS.
As part of the deal, Peacock will exclusively carry up to 47 men’s basketball games and 30 women’s basketball games, varying between conference and non-conference matchups. NBCUniversal reportedly pays the conference $350 million per year for broadcast rights, which includes a presentation of the Big Ten Football Championship Game in 2026.
NESN’s Kevin Youkilis Gives Emotional Tribute to Tim Wakefield
Youkilis played with the Red Sox for eight seasons alongside Wakefield, who died Sunday after a bout with brain cancer.
The baseball world was saddened on Sunday to learn that beloved former pitcher and humanitarian Tim Wakefield had passed away at the age of 57. NESN analyst Kevin Youkilis memorialized his former teammate on the air after the announcement of his death.
Wakefield was a two-time World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox known for his knuckleball. He also won the Roberto Clemente Award in 2010, given annually to the MLB player who best embodies community spirit.
Wakefield was also a studio analyst for NESN and had been in that role since 2012.
Kevin Youkilis on Sunday afternoon’s season finale broadcast in Baltimore reflected on the life of a wonderful person and teammate.
“He was a great competitor when he took that mound,” Youkilis said. “He was just a great teammate and just a great friend.”
“I had the luxury to play with him on the field, in the booth, and I’m just glad that I had the opportunity over the years to be alongside him,” he added. “And just an amazing husband, father, and a community leader. He really enjoyed people. He really enjoyed being around people, and today we lost one of the good ones.”
Broadcast partner Dave O’Brien concurred wholeheartedly.
“A very, very special guy,” he said. “He was just 57 years old. The condolences, of course, are pouring in. We thank all of you. And God bless the Wakefield family.”
MLB on FOX analyst and another former Red Sox teammate David Ortiz paid tribute to his former teammate on Instagram on Sunday, writing about how heartbroken he is.
“I can’t describe what you mean to me and my family,” Ortiz wrote. “My heart is broken right now because I will never be able to replace a brother and a friend like you.”
“Wake embodied true goodness; a devoted husband, father, and teammate, beloved broadcaster, and the ultimate community leader,” the Red Sox said in a statement. “He gave so much to the game and all of Red Sox Nation.”
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.
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