NBA TV will be the big winner among the television networks from the Miami Heat's bid to break the Los Angeles Lakers' 33-game winning streak. Even before the streak began, the Heat was drawing the league's highest TV ratings.
ESPN is scheduled to have only one more Heat telecast this season — at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Chicago, which would be win No. 28 — while ABC will not air another Miami game until April 14 against Chicago. ESPN and ABC then will have used up their maximum appearances by the Heat, 10 by ESPN and five by ABC.
TNT also only has one scheduled Heat game left, the 7 p.m. April 2 game against the visiting New York Knicks, which would be win No. 31.
The league-owned NBA TV is expected to come through in filling the void in national coverage, although some fans may have trouble getting it. NBA TV is carried in only 60 million homes as compared to 98 million for ESPN.
NBA TV picked up the Pistons-Heat game Friday night at the last minute. The network already is scheduled to air the Heat's game at San Antonio at 6 p.m. March 31 — potential win No. 30 and likely the biggest obstacle on the way to the Lakers' record.
An NBA TV source indicated the network likely will be given some flexibility in picking up Heat telecasts not on its schedule. NBA TV games are blacked out in local markets, which gives it greater leeway in scheduling as compared to other networks.
Possible additions include Friday at New Orleans (No. 29), April 6 vs. Philadelphia (potential record-tying No. 33) and April 9 vs. Milwaukee (potential record-breaking No. 34). The April 9 game is a lock since it would be on the network's Fan Night, with the telecast determined by fan voting.
The defending champion Heat are the league's biggest TV draw. On ABC, Heat games are averaging a 3.7 rating and 6.1 million viewers, up 32 percent from non-Heat games. On ESPN, Heat games are averaging a 1.8 rating and 2.2 million viewers, up 29 percent from non-Heat games.
NBA TV's telecast of the Pacers-Heat game March 10 was the second most-viewed regular-season game ever on the network with 764,000 total viewers.