TNT breaks record with NBA game

Playoffs continue to draw large cable audiences

TNT broke another record Tuesday night, as its coverage of Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals drew 10.1 million viewers, making it the most-watched pro hoops playoff game in cable television history.

Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic staved off another brilliant performance by Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James, taking a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with a 116-114 overtime win. TNT's coverage bested ESPN's previous record delivery, which stood for all of 24 hours.

On Monday night, ESPN drew 9.88 million viewers with Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, and while the record was short-lived, the game still stands as the most-watched basketball game (college or pro) to have aired on the sports network. (Of course, that could all change later this afternoon, when the deliveries for ESPN's coverage of Game 5 of the Lakers-Nuggets tilt come through.)

Through the first four games of the Eastern Conference Finals, TNT is averaging 8.36 million viewers, up 34% over the network's coverage of last season's Spurs-Lakers shootout (6.21 million). The Turner net is also enjoying a surge of interest among the core demos, averaging 4.74 million viewers 18-49 (up 36% versus last year), 4.48 million adults 25-54, 3.21 million men 18-49 and 3 million men 25-54. All three of the latter demos are up 35%.

For its part, ESPN has averaged 4.43 million viewers over the course of 17 NBA Playoff games, an improvement of 16% versus its 2008 postseason run. ESPN's coverage of three of the four Lakers-Nuggets games -- sibling ABC carried Game 3 -- has drawn 8.62 million viewers.

On Saturday, May 23, ABC drew 8.73 million viewers with Game 3, making it the network's most-watched NBA Conference Finals telecast ever.