Thursday, June 6, 2024

This Day in TV History: June 6, 1984: A great NBA game doesn't do so well

We hear each day about the value of live sports on broadcast TV and how sporting events are one of the only reliable audience draws left for the networks. The NBA is poised to announce a huge media rights deal which is based in large part on getting increased exposure on over-the-air TV.

Yet 40 years ago, June 6, 1984, an attractive NBA Finals match-up pitted the Lakers against the Celtics, Magic against Bird, Kareem against Parish, etc. in Game 4. The game started at 9PM EST and went into overtime, with Boston winning at The Forum to head back home with the series tied rather than being down 3-1. it featured memorable moments like some notable blunders by Magic Johnson and a hard foul by Kevin McHale that floored Kurt Rambis and nearly led to a riot.

Sounds like a ratings winner, with superstars and high-profile teams in a dramatic and hard-fought battle. According to TV Tango, which sometimes posts ratings numbers with its historical listings, the game finished third for the timeslot!

The winner was the execrable 1978 movie Moment by Moment, an ill-advised pairing of John Travolta and Lily Tomlin that somehow was the highest-rated program this Wednesday night. ABC showed it at 9:00 after a Fall Guy repeat.

NBC also beat the NBA game with a Facts of Life rerun and a new Duck Factory before ratings dipped a bit for a St. Elsewhere rerun. A D-Day anniversary special began the night.

In this pre-cable (mostly) and pre-streaming world, the country was more captivated by a Facts of Life rerun than the start of an NBA Finals game between Los Angeles and Boston.

CBS had an acclaimed nature documentary, Lions of Etosha, leading into the game. Today, of course, you would have a pregame special or at least something a little more compatible. In 1984, CBS didn't bother building its whole night around the NBA game, and while 40 years later we can see that it was a key series for the popularity of the league and this was the key game, it wasn't a blockbuster.

No comments:

Post a Comment