It was a season with sky-high expectations that were dashed almost immediately with loss after loss, injury after injury, a controversial coaching change, an owner’s death, and a first-round playoff sweep.
When asked to describe the season, center Dwight Howard didn’t mince words.
“This is like a nightmare…a bad dream,” he told reporters yesterday.
But it turns out lots of people wanted to watch or listen to the nightmare unfold at every drama-filled turn.
Even without Kobe Bryant, the first Lakers-Spurs game was the highest rated opening round game on ABC in a decade.
On radio, it was the same story.
“We’re at all-time highs from a ratings standpoint, and I would attribute some of that to the Lakers drama this year,” said Scott McCarthy, General Manager of 710 ESPN, which broadcasts Lakers games in Los Angeles.
“Certainly from a revenue standpoint and a ratings standpoint, the Lakers are important asset for us so we like to see them play them deep in the playoffs, but at the same time eighty-percent of what we do here is sports talk,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy says as much as he would like to be broadcasting games through the rest of the playoffs, he expects high ratings from talking about the future of the team right now, something the station has been heavily promoting.
TimeWarner Cable Sportsnet: 'From a business perspective we don’t feel any pain'
This season was also a winning one for the Lakers’ new cable partner TimeWarner Cable Sportsnet.
Their ratings were also up over the Lakers previous cable numbers, but for Timewarner, it doesn’t really matter if the Lakers win, or even if people watch.
That’s because most of their revenue doesn’t come from advertising. It comes from lucrative subscriber fees that are estimated to be some of the highest in television, up to 4 dollars a household.
“Obviously the Lakers are disappointed with the way the season ended,” said TimeWarner Cable Sportsnet Vice-President and General Manager Mark Shuken. “But from a business perspective we don’t feel any pain. The way our business works is the relationships we have with cable and satellite operators and those are long-term partnerships that don’t vary depending on how many games we have.”
This season was the first of a 20-year deal TimeWarner signed with the Lakers, which was valued at $3 billion.
Shuken won’t disclose financials for the channel, but he says this season proved a major success.
"Everything we hoped to accomplishment, we’re so proud to say we’ve overachieved,” said Shuken.
If only the Lakers could say the same thing.