FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN
South Florida is being treated to the greatest and most captivating basketball of any market in the country, between the Heat’s long winning streak and UM’s magical season. And TV audiences are climbing to levels once considered unfathomable for February and March basketball in this market. Consider:
### The notion of a regular-season Heat game outdrawing a Dolphins game would have been absurd a few years ago. No longer.
During the Heat’s 24-game winning streak, the two ABC Sunday afternoon games produced larger Dade/Broward ratings than the 13.5 for the Dolphins’ opener against the Texans last September. Heat-Lakers Feb. 10 drew a 13.9 and Heat-Knicks a 14.3, meaning 14.3 percent of all Dade/Broward homes with TV sets were tuned in.
Even more impressive: Monday night’s Heat-Celtics game on Sun and ESPN produced a combined 17.5, smashing not only the Dolphins opener (by nearly 65,000 homes), but also topping the 16.3 average Dolphins rating locally last season. It also eclipsed the Heat-Thunder Christmas game on ABC (15.6) to become the most-watched Heat game this season.
Wednesday’s Cavaliers game drew an 11.7, peaking at an 18.5 in the game’s closing minutes.
### Twice during this streak, the Heat set a record for most watched Heat game ever on Sun Sports, playoffs included: Monday against Boston and March 10 against Indiana.
### Overall, Heat games are averaging a superb 8.8 rating on Sun during the streak, compared with a 5.4 before the streak. Heat games on Sun often are now the most-watched programs on local TV at night, though seven percent of Dade/Broward homes don’t have cable or satellite TV, according to WPLG-10.
### When Sun Sports and ESPN carry the same Heat game, Sun is drawing more than twice as many local viewers (7.3 rating to ESPN's 3.6).
### UM hoops audience are building, with the ACC title game drawing a solid 5.6 local rating between ESPN and MY-33 (91,000 homes), even though it was competing with a Heat-Raptors game that was viewed in 133,000 Dade/Broward homes.
### On WQAM-560, UM basketball games are producing anywhere from a 1.7 to 4.5 share, depending on the opponent. Last year’s games averaged a 1 share.
AROUND THE DIAL
### CBS and Turner are discussing possibly shifting next year’s Final Four to Turner – two years earlier than planned. Under terms of their joint agreement, Turner and CBS are to alternate Final Four coverage beginning in 2016, with Turner getting the semifinals and title game one year and CBS the next, through 2024. The four regional finals will be split among CBS and Turner beginning in 2016, possibly sooner.
### Charles Barkley is too critical of the Heat, but he has become an advocate for UM, asserting that Miami “deserved a No. 1 seed” and alleging a double standard exists against Miami. “Don’t you think,” Barkley said, “that if Duke or North Carolina won both the ACC regular season and conference tournament that they would have gotten a No. 1 seed?”
### Turner/CBS assigned Tim Brando and Mike Gminski to UM’s regional. Gminski needs to correct his mistake on the ACC Network last weekend, when he said Frank Haith was fired by UM. He wasn’t; it was his decision to leave for Missouri.
### The ACC says it likely will take the Big East’s 7 p.m. slot on ESPN’s Big Monday next season. The new Big East – including seven Big East defectors, Xavier, Creighton and Butler – is shifting to the new Fox Sports 1, a 24-hour-network that debuts in August, replacing Speed.
### ESPN president John Skipper, whose networks smartly air late-afternoon and late-night NCAA Tournament studio shows even though they don’t have Tournament rights, said: “We love college basketball [and] it’s very important to us,” but the sport must address issues.
He hopes the NBA adopts a rule, like the NFL, requiring players to “stay in school for three years. If Kyrie Irving were still at Duke, ratings would be up. If Anthony Davis were at Kentucky this year, it would be a big deal.
“You have too many games. You could lose 8, 10, 12 games and still make the Tournament. You don’t have continuity. You have new guys you have to learn every year. There’s no chemistry on the teams. The teams aren’t as good because they’re not playing together three, four years.”
### Good to hear former Heat radio voice David Halberstam – one of the most descriptive and creative play-by-play men to ever work in the market – calling Nova Southeastern basketball on WMEN 640.
### Yankees announcer Lou Piniella apologized after saying this week: “I don’t want to use the word ‘raped’ but [Toronto] basically took a lot of talent from the Miami Marlins.
### John Renshaw and two out-of-market hosts are among candidates to replace fired Dan Sileo on WQAM’s 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot.