Hooray for hoops and hockey


After years of taking a back seat to the NFL and Major League Baseball, hockey and pro basketball are making year-over-year gains in the ratings.

That's good news for ESPN, TNT, Versus and especially NBC and ABC, which will carry some of the NHL and NBA championship games, respectively. Things have been tough for the two sports recently: Game 3 of last year's Stanley Cup Finals registered the second-lowest primetime ratings in NBC history, and the NBA Finals last year fell to record lows.

NBA playoff ratings are up 31% on ABC and 28% on ESPN, with double-digit increases in key male demos. The Boston Celtics' win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Sunday was the fourth-most-viewed NBA playoff ever on ABC (excluding the finals). The Los Angeles Lakers, a big ratings draw, have made it to the Western Conference finals, which begin tonight.

TNT saw an 17% increase in viewership for its second-round coverage and double-digit increases in the demos.

NBC, meanwhile, is looking at its best matchup in its three years broadcasting the Stanley Cup Finals: a traditional hockey powerhouse in the Detroit Red Wings against the up-and-coming Pittsburgh Penguins.(partialdiff)