“The Legend of Lin” keeps growing, but NBA limits will keep networks from putting a full-court press on viewers
"Lin-sanity" is sweeping the sports world, but the NBA and its national cable and broadcast TV partners will be limited on just how much of a spotlight they can shine on Jeremy Lin and his New York Knicks.
There's a good reason they'd want to get more of the 23-year-old Lin — who has exploded into the nation's cultural and social media consciousness — in front of the nation's viewers.
Tuesday night's Knicks game — in which Lin scored 27 points and hit the game-winning shoot with a second left — delivered the best numbers of the season for the hometown MSG Network, a 7.84 Nielsen household rating.
That continues an eye-popping trend: MSG's ratings have jumped 87 percent in the five games since the 23-year-old Asian-American bench-warmer from Harvard was inserted into the starting lineup. And the Knicks have won them all.
The NBA limits the number of times teams can appear on national broadcasts. When ABC broadcasts Sunday's Knicks game against the Dallas Mavericks (1 p.m. ET) it will be the first time New York has appeared this season. The NBA limit is five, so ABC has four Knicks games left.
The Knicks are slated to be on nine games on ESPN (they've been on three times so far) and eight on TNT (four so far); the cable networks are limited to airing any team 10 times per season.
The NBA has declined to address the issue, but Turner Sports Exec Producer Jeff Behnke told Michael Hiestand of USA Today that TNT will have talks with the league about Knicks games "after the All-Star Game," which is Sunday, Feb. 26. ESPN's director of communications Nate Smeltz acknowledged his network would like more Lin and told USA Today that "we're constantly looking at our schedule.”
Of course, if the Knicks make the playoffs –their record will be 15-15 if they win Wednesday night against Sacramento– it will mean at least four more chances to watch the Asian-American sensation on TV.
Those NBA limits aren't standing in the way of the networks' morning shows, however, and they wasted little time jumping on the Lin bandwagon Tuesday.
ABC's "GMA" aired a segment called “Lin-sanity: From Benchwarmer to Star” Tuesday. CBS' "This Morning" went with "Linderfella Story" and NBC's "Today Show" went with "The Legend of Lin" and a report on jerseys selling out in China and the U.S.