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More viewers tuning into NBA, not just for Heat

By Rachel Cohen

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 22 2010 10:31 a.m. MST

NEW YORK — More viewers are tuning into the NBA — and it's not just the fascination with the Miami Heat.

Television ratings for games on ESPN and TNT are up more than 30 percent so far this season compared to last year.

Sure, the Heat are drawing big audiences after a summer of free agent intrigue concluded with LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining Dwyane Wade in Miami. Ratings for Heat games on ESPN have increased 69 percent from last season.

But take out the five matchups involving Miami, and the network's NBA coverage is still up 23 percent from a year ago.

"It tipped off with a great deal of interest about the Heat and about 'The Decision,'" NBA Commissioner David Stern said last week, "and it seems to have gone from there, when the story lines have unfolded were not about the Heat initially — except about their struggles — but about San Antonio, New Orleans' start, the Knicks' start, the Lakers' start and the Lakers suddenly stumbling a little bit, the Celtics' strength.

"It's across the board," Stern said, "a whole variety of story lines."

The successes of several prominent franchises have boosted viewership numbers. Ratings for ESPN's games are up 58 percent in Los Angeles, 56 percent in Boston and 36 percent in New York.

"It's sort of all jelling in a way," Stern said, "and our broadcasters are reaping the benefits of it, which is terrific for us because they've made this huge investment in us over the years."

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