Cleveland! Cavs’ title win also one for ESPN, ABC

LeBron James, a champion in his hometown at last
LeBron James, a champion in his hometown at last

Highest-rated NBA contest since 1998

In terms of Cleveland media, the last time the city won a championship, WJW-TV was still a CBS affiliate, and the KYW call letters – now used for CBS’ TV and radio stations in Philadelphia – were owned by Westinghouse and used for its TV and radio properties here.

And so the Cleveland Cavaliers – the youngest of Northeast Ohio’s three sports teams, brought home a championship to the city for the first time since 1964 when the Browns won the NFL championship- in a dramatic concluding NBA Finals contest which has to rank as one of the best Game Sevens ever. Led by Akron-born Lebron James, the Cavs won their first-ever championship, obviously erasing what animosity created by “The Decision” several years ago.

The seventh and deciding game of the series featuring a rematch of the previous year’s NBA Finals between the Cavs and the defending champion Golden State Warriors drew a whopping 30.8 million viewers for ABC on Sunday Night, peaking at 44.5 million viewers from 9:30 p.m.-9:45 p.m. CT – making it the most watched NBA contest since 1998, when Michael Jordan played his final game for the Bulls against the Utah Jazz, culminating in a sixth title. It also marks the highest-rated ABC NBA game in history, beating the record set five years ago by Game seven of the Lakers-Celtics series (28.2 M). ABC (through ESPN) has carried NBA games since 2002 and also from 1965-73.

The 30.8 million viewers also outdrew every NBC Sunday Night Football game this season.

Among local markets, Cleveland’s WEWS led with a 46.5 household rating – the second most-watched NBA telecast of all time in the market. For ABC-owned KGO in San Francisco, Golden State’s home market, Game seven drew a 39.4 rating. Despite a competing Cubs telecast on ABC sister network ESPN, Chicago pulled a 17.5 rating for game seven, peaking at 26.5 at 9:30 p.m. Dallas meanwhile, pulled in nearly a million viewers.

On the downside, Pittsburgh (whose Steelers are rivals with the Browns) pulled the lowest rating among metered markets with a 6.4. The market never had an NBA franchise.

Overall, game seven did a 15.7 rating for game seven and averaged 20 million viewers and averaged an 11.3 rating across the entire series. It just proves if there is something worth watching on television, viewers will come, no matter what time of the year it is.

ABC also ranked in a huge amount of revenue from advertising during the long series. Disney drew $279.3 million in ad revenue according to as major brands such as Samsung, Kia, Verizon, and the upcoming “Ghostbusters” movie received tons of exposure. In addition, many upcoming ABC shows, such as Steve Harvey’s Celebrity Family Feud and Uncle Buck also received tons of promotion.

During the 52-year drought, Cleveland had to endure a lot of heartache: “The Drive”. “The Shot”, “The Fumble”, “The Move” (Browns leaving town in 1996 to Baltimore.)

Now, you can call them “The Champs”. Congrats, Cleveland – The Great Ghoulardi would be proud.

So what has happened in Cleveland media in those 52 years between championships? Well….

– In a case that still causes heads to scratch to this day, the FCC ordered NBC to reverse a swap between itself and Westinghouse involving its Cleveland and Philadelphia TV and radio stations, after NBC was found coercing Westinghouse into the deal. KYW-TV-AM-FM returned to Philadelphia in 1965 after nine years in Cleveland, while NBC created WKYC-TV-AM-FM to fill the void. Necessitated by Westinghouse’s deal with CBS, WCAU-TV was traded to NBC in 1995, allowing them to return to station ownership in Philadelphia.

– In 1979, a local rock station (WGCL-FM, now WNCX) refused to run American Top 40 disco special, so in its place, DJ Townsend Coleman counted down the week’s hits himself.

– In 1994, WJW ended its 40-year relationship with CBS when then-owner New World Communications switched it and eleven other stations to Fox in a groundbreaking affiliation deal. WJW is now owned by Tribune Media.

– Independent stations WUAB, WBNX, WCLQ, and WOIO signed on, the latter picking up the CBS affiliation after WJW dropped it. WOIO was a Fox affiliate.

– WOIO anchor Sharon Reed once posed nude for a story at the station, generating national headlines. Reed now works for Atlanta’s CBS affiliate WGCL-TV (no relation to the former Cleveland rock station mentioned earlier.)

– After Cleveland media was unable to have cameras in the courtroom during the corruption trial of Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, WOIO re-enatced scenes from the trial using puppets – yes, puppets in “The Puppet’s Court”. Some of the masterminds behind the idea would later work for Fox-owned WFLD-TV.