In Utah, the Jazz are like 'M*A*S*H' times 'Cheers' plus 'Seinfeld'

According to television ratings published by the Nielsen Company, local viewership for broadcasts of Utah Jazz games is through the roof this season. And it's not just because the team has gotten off to a hot 21-10 start — as Scott D. Pierce of the Salt Lake Tribune reports the numbers have been way up since the year's opening tip:

Through Dec. 22, the ratings for Jazz games on FSN-Utah are up a whopping 50 percent. [...]

"People are excited about this team," said Chris Baum, the Jazz's senior vice president of broadcasting. "The numbers have been good from the beginning of the season."

A year ago, the Jazz were averaging a 4.2 rating and a 7.9 share. This season, those numbers have risen to 6.3/12.

If a rating point "represents 1 percent of the 944,060 households Nielsen estimates are in the Salt Lake television market, which includes all of Utah and parts of Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming," then by my guerrilla math, an increase of 2.1 rating points means nearly 20,000 more households are tuning in each night to see Deron Williams(notes) cross dudes up. That kind of bump would make even Jerry Sloan briefly consider cracking a smile, before instead deciding to tell everyone to take a lap and stop lollygagging.

The rising viewership in Utah fits the larger national pattern of cresting NBA ratings reported last week by the Associated Press, with TV numbers for ESPN and TNT broadcasts "up more than 30 percent so far this season compared to last year."

The national boost has been driven largely by the epic soap opera that is the maiden voyage of the new look Miami Heat, but as Pierce notes, there's not such an easy explanation in Utah:

Utah made some changes to its lineup this season, but nothing on the magnitude of LeBron James(notes) and Chris Bosh(notes) joining Dwyane Wade(notes) in Miami. Unless you consider Al Jefferson(notes) and Raja Bell(notes) the Utah equivalent of James and Bosh.

Clearly, I don't consider Jefferson and Bell to be the Beehive State equivalent of Bron-Bron and Bosh-Bosh. I mean, I'm cool with the Raja-as-Chris comp, but it is way too obvious and easy to suggest that Gordon Hayward(notes) is actually the Utah equivalent of James, and that is precisely why I will suggest it. (Man, that was easy!)

While I'm sure the higher-ups in the Jazz organization are psyched that they're delivering a growing audience to their broadcast partners at FOX Sports Net, I'd also worry a bit if I were them. More butts on Salt Lake-area couches means fewer butts in EnergySolutions Arena seats, and that could mean fewer sixth-man-style acts of good-natured, whistle-based vigilantism. That'd be a downgrade.

I can't say I'd blame a Utah fan for staying home, though. Have you ever seen Andrei Kirilenko's(notes) hair in HD? It looks like Pavarotti singing "Nessun Dorma" sounds. Sheer beauty.

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