Highest NBA Draft Ratings Ever for ESPN

It’s hard to decide who the biggest winner was last Thursday night at the NBA Draft. Was it the Minnesota Timberwolves, picking number one overall and getting Karl-Anthony Towns from Kentucky, a can’t miss big man? Was it the Miami Heat, who eagerly snatched up Justise Winslow at a spot well lower than he should have gone? Or was it ESPN, who aired the NBA Draft and made it the most-watched ever?

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With 3.738 million watching, this year’s Draft rose 8% from last year, when the NBA faced World Cup soccer. The primetime long broadcast averaged a 2.4 household rating, which is a bop up of 4% over the 2014 Draft. Both viewership (5.13 million) and HH ratings (3.3) peaked in the 8-8:15 PM period. Among adults 18-49 Live Same Day ratings, the 2015 Draft was tied with the 2014 Draft with a 1.5. In metered market results, last night’s draft pulled in a 3.1, which is also a match with last year’s MM rating – the best ESPN has ever had. In local markets, Louisville was a solid No.#1 with a huge 8.5 MM result.

ESPN has put a lot of weight behind its NBA coverage, with multiple games airing each week on the cable network during the season as well as additional games on broadcast TV on ABC still being presented by the ESPN team. If fans are willing to watch the draft in record numbers, it’s only a matter of time before the games themselves are setting cable records and restoring ESPN’s negotiating power with cable and satellite TV providers.

The Most Popular Cable TV Channel Might Surprise You

ESPN has long been assumed to be the most powerful cable television network, due to its family of channels and hours upon hours of live sports coverage, highlights and commentary. As well, recently, the prestige of HBO’s mix of movies and its own premium programming has gotten a lot of attention. But neither HBO nor ESPN is the most desired cable network among viewers, says the Digitalsmiths TV Report. Instead, it’s the Discovery Channel.

More from the Washington Post:

[…] the top channels are the major broadcasters and Discovery Channel, the testosterone-fueled docu-series machine that has given the world “Deadliest Catch” and “Gold Rush,” according to a report this week by Digitalsmiths, a research firm owned by Tivo. In fact, HBO, Comedy Central and ESPN rank behind even the History Channel and the National Geographic Channel, according to the company’s quarterly survey of 3,177 adults on cable viewing habits.

Viewers said that 17 channels at $38 a month would make up the ideal package. HBO ranked ninth and ESPN ranked 20th in most-popular channels to include in a bundle. The survey measured what kind of smaller channel package would be ideal for consumers and what channels they couldn’t live without. That’s different from audience measurements from companies such as Nielsen.

Why is this important? The cost of ESPN is often what drives up cable TV prices, as they can basically name their rate from different providers. Learning that people are willing to leave ESPN behind when creating a bundle might leave them in a position of less power, and give us more choice in what we’d like to watch. We’ll see.

The Changing Face of High-Speed Internet?

As it stands now, most Americans receive high-speed internet service from cable companies like Comcast and Charter Communications, or phone providers like AT&T. That could all change, as a number of tech companies across the globe, with some based in the United States’ Silicon Valley, are looking to deliver high-speed internet by satellite at much higher speeds than ever before.

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On Monday, Europe’s Airbus Group announced at the Paris Air show that it will build 900 internet satellites for OneWeb, a space internet start-up backed by Virgin Galactic billionaire Richard Branson, with a goal to start swathing Earth with internet signals by 2018.

The announcement came just weeks after Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket firm filed plans with the Federal Communications Commission to launch two small experimental “MicroSat” satellites in 2016, in a first step toward a swarm of 4,000 broadband satellites.

These companies are heralding ever-smaller satellites as the next space revolution.

There are many companies that already offer internet service via satellite, and that can be the only option available to those in rural areas, especially parts of the United States where broadband internet is not available. But those satellites are large and unwieldy, and as a result internet lag time is a big problem. Lag time is also caused by how high these large satellites must fly. The new satellites will be much smaller and in theory more capable of bringing a constant signal from space.

What does this mean for the current heavyweights of high-speed internet? Not much, as of yet. But companies should try and reach rural customers before the satellites get better, or else terrestrial internet might get left on the earth.

TV Ratings for NBA Finals Highest Since the Jordan Era

The NBA Finals clash between the best player—Lebron James—and the best team—the Golden State Warriors—resulted in the most-watched basketball series since the heyday of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, when they won their final title in 1998. The series achieved an average overnight rating of 13.9 for the six games, and a 15.9 for the clinching Game 6 when the Warriors finally outlasted Lebron’s Cavs for the title.

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It was also watched by nearly a million people on WatchESPN.

They’re impressive numbers for ABC and the NBA, the likes of which wouldn’t be expected based on the teams playing in the series. These aren’t small markets — Nielsen ranks the Bay Area as sixth-largest in the U.S., Cleveland-Akron is 19th — but it shows the popularity of the league that ratings weren’t driven by the nation’s biggest cities.

The highest-rated Finals in league history came in 1998 when the Bulls topped the Utah Jazz in six games thanks to Jordan’s heroics. That series received an average overnight rating of 18.9, continuing a long trend of big numbers for the Finals during the 1980s and 1990s. Since ABC landed the rights from NBC in 2003, this is the closest we’ve come to those huge audiences the league once commanded. The 13.9 average rating also represents a 31 percent increase from a year ago when the San Antonio Spurs topped LeBron and the Miami Heat.

That a million people watched the programming on WatchESPN also shows how broadband customers are becoming more and more important to the live sports watching demographic. WatchESPN is available to subscribers of Charter Cable and other cable TV providers.

Cablevision Now Has More Internet Subscribers than TV Subscribers

Many have worried that cable companies will fall by the wayside as “cord-cutting” (moving away from cable television in favor of streaming programming from the World Wide Web or services like Netflix or Hulu) becomes more and more favorable among the younger generations. Cablevision’s leader Jim Dolan (who’s much better at running a cable company than he is at owning the New York Knicks, or playing blues-rock) spoke to investors and outlined a plan for cable companies to survive throughout the cord cutting: to no longer be cable companies.

More from Deadline:

“Connectivity is our No. 1 product now; it is no longer video,” Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan told an investor gathering today. “That is a significant change to our model.”

It isn’t just because his Long Island-based company now has more broadband subscribers than TV ones. “We expect a reduction in the big bundle offering,” he said in an interview with Guggenheim Partners Executive Chairman Alan Schwartz — who’s a director at Dolan-controlled AMC Networks and Madison Square Garden Co, where he chairs the compensation committee. “That is going to have an impact on programmers. How much of an impact? My personal guess is 20 to 25% over the next five years.”

Companies like Charter Communications are already working toward this goal by offering high speed internet service that beats out the competition when it comes to uptime and download speeds (up to 100 Mbps in some areas).

A Lifeline for High-Speed Internet

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering subsidizing high-speed internet access for low-income households. Subsidies are already available for home telephone services; changes to the law might make that money available for broadband internet as well.

More from the Verge:

The Lifeline program typically gives households $9.25 per month toward phone service. To qualify, households must have an income of no higher than 135 percent of the poverty line or be part of other federal assistance programs, such as Medicaid. It doesn’t appear any of that will be changing, except that households will now be able to apply the Lifeline credit to broadband service instead.

The program’s shift toward broadband may be necessary to bring people online. As theTimes points out, Pew found that, in 2013, little more than half of people making under $30,000 per year had broadband access. Minorities were also less likely to have access, with only 53 percent of Hispanic respondents having high-speed internet at home.

FCC commissioners will likely vote on the plan during their June 18th meeting. While the Democratic commissioners will likely support the plan, the two Republicans on the commission probably won’t like it. Michael O’Rielly, one of those commissioners, tells theTimes that he believes Lifeline is “inefficient, costly, and in serious need of review.” There have been issues with abuse of Lifeline in the past, and Wheeler’s proposal is expected to include additional safeguards to limit those concerns.

This is an important shift in perspective. As more and more jobs require access to the internet and the ability to use computers, households without internet access are falling behind. Not to mention the need for children in the household to have the internet as an educational and research tool as schooling moves away from pen and paper and toward the keyboard.

DISH Network Down, DIRECTV Up after First Quarter

The beginning of 2015 has been rough on satellite TV provider DISH Network, with programming disputes over airing Turner networks, 21st Century Fox and a number of local affiliates contributing to a large subscriber loss over Q1. Meanwhile, DISH’s closest competitor, DIRECTV, is up over that same time period.

More from Variety:

Dish closed the first quarter with 13.844 million pay-TV subscribers, down 253,000 from 14.097 million at the end of Q1 2014.

“Dish’s video business is dying a slow death,” analyst Craig Moffett wrote in a research note. The satcaster’s Q1 sub loss was the company’s worst Q1 ever, he noted. And while Dish topped Wall Street earnings estimates “more than all of the beat was attributable to the miss in gross additions (fewer customers acquired means less expense),” Moffett wrote.

By comparison, rival satcaster DirecTV added a net 60,000 new subscribers in Q1 — a historically strong period for the pay-TV sector. DirecTV said it had its lowest first-quarter churn rate in six years.

DIRECTV has a major advantage over DISH Network, and that is the consistently strong growth among NFL fans wanting NFL Sunday Ticket in their homes. DISH Network will need to find something uniquely its own in order to compete.