Barry Jackson: If Lakers dispatch Denver tonight, the c…

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Ben Cafardo: ESPN's coverage of @NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 3 - #Celtics vs #Heat - was the most-watched program across all of TV for Sat, Sept 19 (Nielsen). TelevisionMobile phone It generated 3,810,000 viewers, peaking w/4,316,000 viewers. Heavy check markAlso the most-watched program in the male/adult demos.
Even a buzzer-beating Laker win could not keep NBA ratings afloat opposite Sunday Night Football. Airing directly opposite NBC’s Sunday Night Football, Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference Finals (Nuggets-Lakers) averaged a 1.75 rating and 3.17 million viewers on TNT — marking the league’s smallest conference final audience since Pistons-Nets Game 4 on ESPN in 2003 (2.72M). No other conference final game since at least 2001 has averaged fewer viewers.
Both games declined considerably from last year, with Game 2 down 63% in ratings and 60% in viewership from Blazers-Warriors on a Thursday night in May last year (4.7, 7.88M). Friday’s drop was not as severe, but ratings still fell 42% and viewership a third from last year’s Tuesday night opener (4.5, 7.32M).
Tuesday’s Nuggets-Clippers second round NBA playoff Game 7 averaged 5.23 million viewers on ESPN, marking the largest audience of the playoffs on cable and the second-largest across all networks. ABC averaged 5.43 million for Rockets-Lakers Game 2 over Labor Day weekend. Denver’s upset win delivered cable’s third-largest live sports audience since the NFL Draft in April, behind only the previous night’s NFL doubleheader on ESPN (Steelers-Giants: 10.76M; Titans-Broncos: 7.70M). Outside of the NFL, it was the most-watched live sporting event on cable since the NBA All-Star Game in February (7.23M).
Earlier Tuesday, Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals (Heat-Celtics) averaged 4.01 million, marking the least-watched conference final game since 2007 (Jazz-Spurs Game 5: 3.97M). The 6:30 PM ET start time — the earliest for any weekday conference final game in recent memory — provides an obvious caveat.
Viewership fell 27% from Game 1 of last year’s East Finals on TNT, which began two hours later (Raptors-Bucks: 5.49M), and 44% from Game 1 in 2018 — a Sunday afternoon game on broadcast television (Cavaliers-Celtics: 7.22M).
Going back to the weekend, ESPN averaged a 1.9 rating and 3.72 million viewers for Rockets-Lakers Game 5 on Saturday night and a mere 0.8 and 1.30 million for Clippers-Nuggets Game 6 on Sunday afternoon. The latter ranks as the least-watched second round playoff game in at least a decade, with the caveat that it aired opposite NFL games.
If not the ratings draw one would expect in a normal year, Celtics-Raptors Game 7 still delivered cable’s best sports audience in months. Friday’s Celtics-Raptors second round NBA playoff Game 7 averaged 4.69 million viewers on TNT, marking the largest audience for any sporting event on cable since the NFL Draft in April. The previous high was 4.65 million for Lakers-Rockets Game 3 on TNT last week.
Tim Reynolds: Game 7 of Raptors-Celtics reached just over 6 million Canadians watchng on TV, the highest reach of any 2020 NBA Playoff game. (There's like 37 million Canadians, so like 1 out of every 6 of them watched some of that game.) #TheyTheNorth
It took a major hit in the ratings, but Lakers-Rockets still put up the strongest competition against the NFL Kickoff Game in a decade. Thursday’s Lakers-Rockets second round NBA playoff Game 4 averaged 2.50 million viewers on TNT, marking the most-watched sporting event opposite the NFL Kickoff Game in a decade — since an Auburn-Mississippi State college football game on ESPN in 2010 (2.81M).
As one would expect, the Lakers’ win was trounced by the competing NFL game, which averaged 19.3 million viewers (not including out-of-home viewership). It ranked a distant second on a crowded sports night that also included the US Open women’s semifinals on ESPN (1.55M) and the NHL Western Conference Final on NBCSN (790K). Viewership sank an unsurprising 44% from the comparable Thursday window of last year’s postseason, which did not face any notable competition (Raptors-Sixers Game 6: 4.48M). The closest comparison from last year’s playoffs would be Nuggets-Spurs Game 6 in the first round, which aired opposite night one of the NFL Draft and averaged 1.80 million on TNT.
Game 4 was the least-watched Laker game of the playoffs, not just owing to the competition but also to a special 7 PM ET start time — or 4 PM in Los Angeles. Every other Laker game this postseason averaged at least 2.9 million and the three previous games of the Rockets series each topped four million.
In other action, Wednesday’s double-overtime Raptors-Celtics Game 6 averaged 3.43 million viewers on ESPN, the most-watched game of the playoffs that did not start in primetime or air on broadcast television (37 total games). Game 5 averaged 2.71 million on TNT Labor Day, down 27% from Bucks-Celtics Game 4 in a similar window last year (3.72M).
Clippers-Nuggets Game 4 averaged 2.98 million in Wednesday’s nightcap, down 39% from Celtics-Bucks Game 5 in a similar window last year (4.87M). Game 3 averaged 3.45 million on Monday, down 50% from Warriors-Rockets Game 4 in a similar slot last year (6.97M).
The Lakers’ win, which peaked with 7.01 million viewers from 10:45-11 PM ET, also ranks as the fourth-most watched sporting event since the NFL Draft — behind the previous day’s Kentucky Derby (9.26M), NASCAR’s return at Darlington (6.32M) and the golf exhibition “The Match” (5.67M).
Ratings increased 16% and viewership 34% from a similar Sunday night window on TNT last year (Nuggets-Blazers Game 4: 2.5, 4.06M). Compared to ABC’s lone primetime second round game last year, Warriors-Rockets Game 3 on a Saturday, ratings fell 34% (from 4.4) and viewership 25% (from 7.23M). Compared to the same Labor Day weekend window last year, ratings and viewership were off slightly from ABC’s Houston-Oklahoma college football game (3.0, 5.44M) — though the NBA performed significantly better in adults 18-34 (1.7 to 1.1), 18-49 (2.0 to 1.5) and 25-54 (2.2 to 1.9).
Ben Cafardo: 🏀ABC's broadcast of #Lakers #Rockets GM2 on Sunday generated 5,432,000 viewers, peaking w/ 7,012,000 viewers from 1045-11PM ET. (Nielsen) ✔️Most-watched 2020 #NBAPlayoffs broadcast. ✔️Most-watched TV program in M18-34 demo since the finale of The Last Dance on ESPN (May 17).
Ratings around the world were also helped by Luka Doncic’s transcendent run for the Dallas Mavericks. For his first two seeding games, ratings in Spain— where Luka played for Real Madrid before coming to the NBA— were up 172% over the regular season average. And when Doncic hit the game-winner in overtime at the buzzer in Game 4 of Dallas first round matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers to complete a 43-point triple-double, the video highlight generated more than 1.8 million views on NBA Spain’s Twitter account.
Last week was an “Ooh la la!” moment for the NBA and other TV shows because their viewership metrics changed quite favorably. For the first time ever, Nielsen incorporated “out of home” viewership (OOH) into the overall ratings, a boost that was projected to add between 7 to 11 percent to the overall numbers. Traditionally, only TVs in households counted towards the overall numbers. Now, TVs in hospitals, airports, restaurants and offices count as well. This is largely why viewership on games and cable news shows suddenly shot up in the first week of September. We’ve finally shifted from mph to kph.
So, there was an initial sticker shock when I checked the new numbers last week. Not only did the NBA finally crack the 4 million viewer mark with its Rockets-Thunder Game 7, but a variety of cable news shows were suddenly up huge. The actual boost in OOH viewership is something of a mystery right now, but that 11 percent upper-bound projection might be conservative. It’s difficult to make a comparison for the NBA games, since both Game 7s happened after OOH, but a few cable news shows are now doing monster numbers, even though they were projected to merely gain 7 percent in a pre-pandemic time, according to Scott Brown, Nielsen’s head of TV and audio products.
Viewership increased 17% over the comparable window of last year’s playoffs, Game 2 of a Blazers-Nuggets second round series on TNT (3.51M). Last year’s game aired exclusively on TNT, while this year’s game co-existed with RSN coverage in both Houston and Oklahoma City. The other first round Game 7 was less of a draw. Jazz-Nuggets averaged 3.39 million on ABC Tuesday night, down 24% from the comparable window on TNT last year (Celtics-Bucks: 4.45M) and ABC’s least-watched Game 7 since Bucks-Hawks on a Sunday afternoon in 2010 (3.06M). It also delivered the second-smallest primetime playoff audience ever on ABC, ahead of Celtics-Pacers Game 3 on a Friday last year (2.72M).
A new Harris Poll backs Trump’s critique of the NBA, with 39% of sports fans saying they are watching fewer games. And the chief reason why? Politics. The longtime polling agency surveyed nearly 2,000 people over the weekend and gave those who identified as sports fans—two-thirds of the total—ten options to choose from on why they are watching less basketball.
“The league has become too political” was the clear choice, with 38% of respondents who identified themselves as sports fans. “Boring without fans” captured 28% of the vote while the NBA’s association with China caused 19% of sports fans to turn the dial, another nod to a league Trump labeled a “political organization” last week after players boycotted games in response to a police officer shooting Jacob Blake seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
While 39% of sports fans say they are watching fewer games, 32% answered they are consuming more basketball this summer (28% say the same amount). Harris did not ask those fans why they were watching more.
Anthony Crupi: As it stands right now, television viewing is down eight percent year over year for the summer season. It’s down 19 percent for broadcast television. For the 18 to 49 demo, which if we are being honest is who the NBA and pretty much everybody else who advertises is interested in, that’s down 36 percent. In the last four years, TV as a whole has lost 52 percent of its target audience. It’s just gone — and it’s not coming back. So the NBA came back against all that and it is down year over year. It’s definitely doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that people should in any way be concerned about because what we’re talking about is very limited ratings. The numbers don’t get scale until you get to the conference championship series and the NBA Finals.
Austin Karp: I think Anthony hit on a lot of great points there. If I had to describe it at the macro level, I’d say the NBA is down right now but not out for sure. A couple years ago, when the Warriors were hitting on all cylinders, some people we’re talking like, “Oh, the NBA? When are they going to overtake the NFL?” Now we’re talking about the NBA like it’s the Titanic. We have to find some sort of happy medium there and that’s usually where the truth lies. The NBA ratings are down year over year. I think they were down 12 percent headed into the All-Star break. So being down right now, it was something we expected. A lot of the networks were backloading their schedule with Lakers and LeBron (James) games. They did not get that so they couldn’t close the gap on that.
Without that deal and its years of guaranteed income, it will be harder for the league to keep the lights on in the event that 2020-21 has no fans. There’s one big issue, though. The desperate need for a new national TV deal comes at the exact moment that viewership interest in the league has cratered. Not merely ebbed. Not subsided a bit in accordance to what one might expect with “cord cutting.” No, the NBA has fallen to a new viewership low perhaps not seen since the 1980s. Here’s one, yet to be publicized stat to know: 45 percent. As in the league’s ABC games, its premium broadcast, are down a whopping 45 percent off what the NBA averaged back in 2011-12. In that hastily promoted lockout season, ABC games drew 5.42 million viewers on average. The final tally on this latest 2019-20 season was 2.95 million average viewers on ABC games. Every ABC game from 2011-2012 received higher viewership than 2.95 million, save for a meaningless late season 1 p.m. Thunder-Bulls game that Derrick Rose sat out.
Among sports shows, PTI had the highest average (Thursday and Friday) at just 337,000 viewers, via ShowBuzzDaily. ESPN’s second and third most popular programs, First Take and Around the Horn, drew 265,500 and 202,500, respectively. Other averages included Get Up — 223,500; The Jump — 180,500; Highly Questionable —188,500; Jalen & Jacoby — 168,000; Undisputed —134,000; Speak for Yourself — 64,000. At the same time last year, with no NBA games, the programs fared far better. For comparison, the top-rated show, PTI, is down from a 568,500 average. Its decline is comparable to other measured sports programming.

http://twitter.com/dhookstead/status/1292076169223909378
"The ratings for the basketball are way down, as you know," Trump said. "I hear some others are way down, including baseball. We have stand up for our flag, stand up for our country. A lot of people agree with me. If I'm wrong, I'm going to lose an election. That's okay with me. I will always stand for our flag." Trump also addressed Black Lives Matter, comparing himself to former president Abraham Lincoln. "Black Lives Matter," he said. "Nobody has done better for our Black community than me. Nobody. With the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln; it's true. Criminal justice reform, opportunity zones, best employment numbers in history. Again, nobody has done for the black community – by far. I'll give the one exception: Abraham Lincoln."
"The world will be watching," President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard said Tuesday in a 40-minute Zoom conference with media members. "We're probably going to have some of the highest TV ratings we've ever had. I can feel in the air there's a pent-up demand for our sport, and sports in general. "You go from apprehension on one end of the pendulum to excitement at the other end," Pritchard added. "(We're) getting excited to go play basketball and we look at this as a unique experience. I'm hopeful this is the only one we ever have to do."
Which NBA local broadcast do you watch most often? Of the 840 responses we received from the survey of our subscribers, the broadcasts that were represented the most when it comes to viewing were the Minnesota Timberwolves (9.3 percent) and Toronto Raptors (9.0 percent). The New York Knicks (7.3 percent) and Golden State Warriors (also 7.3 percent) were the next highest volume on this survey. The Philadelphia 76ers (5.7 percent), Brooklyn Nets (4.9 percent), Boston Celtics (4.9 percent), Chicago Bulls (3.8 percent), Los Angeles Lakers (3.6 percent), and Milwaukee Bucks (3.6 percent) all rounded out the top 5 for local broadcasts our subscribers watch the most.
As most League Pass obsessives would guess, the Brooklyn Nets (+147) and New York Knicks (106) had the two most loved broadcasts. These are a little bit of a cheat code for MSG (Knicks) and YES (Nets) because they attract arguably the two best play-by-play announcers in the NBA. The Nets have Ian Eagle doing the majority of the broadcasts for their local viewings, when he isn’t off filling in NBA games on TNT, college basketball and NFL on CBS, or The French Open for the Tennis Channel. The Knicks have Mike Breen doing the majority of their local broadcasts when ABC and ESPN don’t tear him away for nationally televised games.
The Portland Trail Blazers (+56) crew of Kevin Calabro and Lamar Hurd came in third among all broadcast teams. Back in 2016, the Blazers had some controversy firing the locally beloved crew of Mike Barrett and Mike Rice. They were homers and their broadcasts were a bit zanier than you might hope for if you were an outsider looking in. But the Blazers fans seemed to love them. That made the entrance of Calabro and Hurd pretty rocky and not totally welcome. But Calabro has been one of the best in the business for a long time, going from Seattle SuperSonics broadcasts with Steve “Snapper” Jones to national games with ESPN. Hurd joined the team after years of PAC-12 broadcasts. You also can’t forget sideline reporter Brooke Olzendam, who brings a lot of information, energy, and fun into the mix.
Netflix says overseas hoops fans flocked in huge numbers to “The Last Dance,” the documentary series about Michael Jordan and the ’90s Chicago Bulls team, which has been a ratings smash in the U.S. for ESPN. Netflix tweeted the numbers Wednesday, claiming that 23.8 million households outside the U.S. checked out “The Last Dance” in its first four weeks on the service. “23 was always his lucky number!” the streamer said, referencing Jordan’s jersey number. But some big caveats are in order — Netflix’s selectively reported viewing figures aren’t comparable to TV ratings. The streamer bases its publicly reported audience metrics based on how many member accounts watched a given show or movie for a minimum of just 2 minutes — an in-house calculation the company claims is a better reflection of popularity than average time spent viewing, which is how the television world measures viewership.
ESPN’s Michael Jordan documentary, “The Last Dance,” has overtaken Netflix Inc.’s “Tiger King” as the most in-demand documentary in the world, a boost for the cable giant at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has shut down live sports and slashed its audience ratings. “The Last Dance” was one of the 20 most in-demand shows in the world this week, according to Parrot Analytics, a research firm that tracks audience interest using data that includes social-media conversations and piracy. The show is even more popular in the U.S., where it ranked as 11th this week.
CBS' Masters rewind drew 2.2 million viewers, virtual racing started off strong but has since lost steam, and ESPN's H.O.R.S.E. challenge drew just 686,000 viewers.
The first two episodes of “The Last Dance,” a 10-part series about legendary guard Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, attracted the most viewers for a documentary in ESPN history, the network announced Monday. The two 60-minute episodes that aired Sunday night averaged 6.1 million viewers, according to ESPN. The first episode averaged 6.3 million between 9-10 p.m. ET, and the second averaged 5.8 million between 10-11 p.m. ET. According to ESPN, its “You Don’t Know Bo” on former two-sport star Bo Jackson was the previous most-watched documentary on its airwaves. That film averaged 3.6 million viewers in 2012.
The first two episodes of “The Last Dance,” a 10-part series about legendary guard Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, attracted the most viewers for a documentary in ESPN history, the network announced Monday. The two 60-minute episodes that aired Sunday night averaged 6.1 million viewers, according to ESPN. The first episode averaged 6.3 million between 9-10 p.m. ET, and the second averaged 5.8 million between 10-11 p.m. ET. According to ESPN, its “You Don’t Know Bo” on former two-sport star Bo Jackson was the previous most-watched documentary on its airwaves. That film averaged 3.6 million viewers in 2012.
Last year’s Big3 championship game averaged a 0.48 rating and 674,000 viewers on CBS, down 31% in ratings and 33% in viewership following a 0.7 rating and 1 million viewers for the 2018 championship game on Fox. “CBS Sports was a remarkable partner for the BIG3 last season as we were able to take the league to a whole new level and reach new fans globally, utilizing CBS’ unmatched broadcast team and production, and we’re thrilled to bring the BIG3 back to their airwaves in 2020,” said BIG3 co-founder Ice Cube.
Meanwhile, the NBA says that 35% of its single-game NBA League Pass purchases now come from Latin America. Partnerships with the Novo Basquete Brasil and NBA regular season games played in Mexico have also boosted fan engagement. Mexico City additionally will soon be home to an NBA G League team beginning this fall.
Local ratings for 27 of the NBA’s 30 teams (with the Utah Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies, and Toronto Raptors not included) are in at the league’s All-Star Break, and the news is not very good for the Association. According to the ratings data compiled by the Sports Business Journal, those 27 teams are down 13% on their local RSNs, with 14 of the 27 experiencing declines in viewership. This news follows a similar trend to the national landscape, where ratings have dropped by 12%, from 10% on ESPN to to 13% on TNT and 16% on ABC.
Those numbers correlate with the NBA hosting more competitive events while honoring Kobe Bryant, who died three weeks ago along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash. Although average viewership across ABC, ESPN and TNT have suffered a 13-percent decrease this season, the NBA experienced other relative improvements in recent months. Average viewership on ESPN and TNT increased by a combined six percent in December. Those viewers then increased by an average of 27 percent on ESPN, TNT and NBA TV in January.
Those numbers have not entirely offset the NBA’s declining television rating stemminged from either cord-cutting, downgraded cable packages and extensive injuries to the league’s star players. But those numbers left the NBA feeling validated on downplaying the league’s early-season bumps. “We may be affected by it a little bit more on properties because we have such a young fanbase,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a press conference during All-Star weekend. “But I am very confident we can work through it.”
“This season’s NBA ratings story is silly. It is a small sample size. This is a year-round league with year-round stories,” says sports media consultant Lee Berke of LHB Sports. “The next NBA media agreements will be a substantially evolved set of deals because of streaming. There will be an increasing range of media companies that want the NBA for the U.S. and worldwide.” The current $2.7 billion per year NBA deal with ESPN and TNT runs through the 2024-25 season, and Berke expects the next deal to roughly double in value.
Yes, we’ve been over the ratings decline, but the situation hasn’t improved since the Sports Business Journal collected and posted data on Dec. 2. Those in the know at ESPN confirm that the more recent numbers have been brutal, save for a Lakers-Bucks game that drew interest. Maybe this is a one-season drop, mostly related to the Warriors’ gap year, but what if the NBA can’t correct course soon? Well, that has big implications for the main source of league revenue.
Not exactly, as these deals are negotiated far, far in advance. This means the NBA is running out of time to argue that it’s on an upward swing to prospective buyers. Beyond that, it looks like the upcoming TV rights market is not as favorable as it was in 2014. For instance, in a shocker, ESPN/ABC won out over CBS for SEC football rights. This could not have been taken as good news at the NBA’s league office back in New York. Not only has ESPN/ABC committed billions to a non-NBA product, depleting its reserves, but the move also makes the cable channel less dependent on NBA programming.
Do you think an in-season tournament is an interesting media property? Jalen Rose: I think it is something that can get eyeballs instead of possibly getting them during Christmas or Thanksgiving. I think always making the fan believe that the player is invested in tonight’s game especially early in the season means something. I understand it from that perspective. I don’t think necessarily players will take as much pride in it as winning championships. I applaud the best players for being about the big goal. I sort of blame media and fans for making it only about ring chasing. So now we count rings instead of appreciating greatness, which are two different things.
Jalen Rose: So players are like, wait a minute, you don’t care if I play in November? You don’t care if I play for Team USA? All you want me to do is win championships? Okay, cool. Not only are we going to join up together, but I’m going to take nights off during the regular season to make sure I’m ready to go in the playoffs because that’s all you care about. I can have a great game in January and all you guys do is say well it’s not the playoffs. Then you have my numbers so analytics are going to run the game. OK, so I get a bonus based on making 40 percent of my threes or having low turnovers. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to shoot when I’m wide open and I’m not going to take chances with the ball. Players have gotten very intelligent that they now understand the pulse of the people and that people don’t necessarily always root for individual teams. They root for players. Players now realize I can have longevity in my career and make more money. Plus, put myself in a position not to have rivals and to win rings.
Jalen Rose: When the best players are in California — LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George — the East Coast fans aren’t staying up till twelve o’clock to watch the fourth quarter. On the East Coast, I mentioned the two big guns for the Nets that are not playing and the Knicks have already fired their coach. So when all of those things are happening at the same time, there’s going to be a dip in viewership. There are more reasons, but I think that that’s the major one. I think if all of those situations are hitting on all cylinders, the viewership is as outstanding as it’s been.
The Los Angeles Clippers unwrapped a win against the rival Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night on ABC, topping Christmas Day in ratings. The primetime showdown earned a 1.8 rating in the 18-49 demographic and 5.67 million viewers and aired on ABC and ESPN, the capper to five NBA games that aired on Christmas Day.
Mark Cuban: Ratings are down because all of our national broadcasts are exclusively available on cable, which is losing subs daily. Football benefits from being on broadcast tv which is in every digital and traditional package along with gambling available in some of the biggest markets
With NBA national TV ratings struggling again early, the league should consider some radical ideas to better position itself in the marketplace. One thought that has been broached in league circles, according to sources, would be to move the start of the schedule back to closer to Thanksgiving or, even more drastically, Christmas, in combination with a potential reduction from 82 games and some sort of in-season tournament.
A target date to institute this new thinking could be 2021-22 when the NBA celebrates its 75th season. It would make sense to potentially move to a 75-game season and introduce the still-to-be-determined tournament at that point. There are financial and scheduling issues that would have to be considered. Would the owners and players be willing to reduce revenue with fewer games? Would they be able to structure the season to have the Finals still finish in June? Would they be amenable to having the championship in July or even August?
TNT averaged a 0.6 rating and 909,000 viewers for Mavericks-Knicks and a 0.49 and 766,000 for Nets-Nuggets Thursday, marking the network’s sixth-straight NBA games with fewer than a million viewers. Including ESPN, nine games have failed to crack the million viewer mark thus far, compared to 19 all of last season. Ratings fell 22% and viewership 18% for New York’s win (vs. Rockets-Thunder: 0.7, 1.12M); Denver’s win sank 51% in both measures (vs. Bucks-Warriors: 1.0, 1.57M). Eight of ten TNT games have declined from last year.
Ben Fischer: WarnerMedia Chair Jeff Zucker on NBA ratings weakness this season: “I think the combination of injuries and sitting out has been an issue, and I think that’s concern, and hopefully that will get addressed over time.... "I think the league has some influence over teams and i would like them to exert that influence." WarnerMedia Chair Jeff Zucker on load management in the NBA. #SBJSMT
NBA officials said while they had buy-in from the networks for placing the Raptors on Opening Night and Christmas, overall the league wanted the Raptors on national TV more than either network wanted to have them.
TNT and ESPN don’t even broadcast in Canada. They do not get the benefit of access to the largest swath of Raptors fans — Canadians. The Raptors, by the way, could still be a very good team in the East this season, but from a ratings standpoint, they do not have a star like Leonard nor are they expected to repeat as champs. That’s the problem. “What a lot of people like to cling to is because the Raptors don’t play in the United States, it makes them ratings challenged,” Vertino said. “But my argument would be they’re a compelling team and they play a great and exciting brand of basketball, and to me, maybe we can flip it and say, ‘Maybe we can open some more eyes here that weren’t going to watch in the first place. They’re on this platform for a reason.’”
1. The 2019 WNBA Finals showcased the best of the league — superb playmaking, athleticism and taut competition. The series between the Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun extended to a full five games before Washington claimed the franchise’s first title. So how was the viewership for the series? Very disappointing, especially given the quality of the games. Game 5 of the WNBA Finals between the Mystics and Sun averaged 440,000 viewers on ESPN2. That was down from last year’s Storm-Mystics clinching Game 3 (519,000 on ESPN2) and down 51 percent from the 2017 clincher (907,000 on ESPN).
Per Sports Media Watch: The five-game Finals averaged 381,000 viewers on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, the least-watched Finals since 2013 (Minnesota-Atlanta averaged 315,000). Viewership declined 21 percent from last year’s Storm-Mystics sweep (481,000) and 32 percent from the Lynx-Sparks in 2017 (559,000).
The annual speech isn’t available to the public, so it tends to contain franker messaging than you might find in Adam Silver’s news conferences. This year was no exception. While the NBA has publicly indicated that there’s been a dropoff in ratings, that message gets conveyed with subtlety. In person, with the coaches, Silver was blunt, according to sources at the meeting. Viewership is down, said the commissioner, down so significantly that he badly needs the help of the men present. They must do what it takes to aid the occasionally intrusive TV broadcasts, even if that means going outside their comfort zones.
One of the specific challenges for the NBA this year — which meant a significant task for Carelli and his crew — was to attack the decline in viewership from last season. Regular-season game telecasts across ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV in 2018-19 averaged 1.2 million viewers, down 5 percent from the previous season. (NBA games were still up 3 percent from two seasons ago.) Particularly problematic was the viewership of the early windows of NBA national TV doubleheaders. Last year, per Sports Business Daily, TNT saw a 23 percent drop in viewership for the early windows in a doubleheader. ESPN had an 11 percent drop in the early window for its doubleheader games.
The good news for BIG3? A league consisting of grizzled 30 and 40-something players, some with greybeards, has become surprisingly popular with millennials and Generation Z, both on TV and social media. Now BIG3’s eyeing events in China and countries where basketball is growing. “It is amazing when you think about it. We have the oldest players — and the youngest audience,” Kwatinetz said.
The NBA’s television doldrums so far this season are happening at the local level, too, where regional sports network ratings from 28 U.S.-based teams had dropped 10 percent on average at the All-Star break compared to the same point last year. Overall, most of the country’s RSNs have posted ratings gains this season; 15 have seen TV ratings increases in the first part of the season, and 13 have seen TV ratings decreases. (Information for Memphis and Toronto was not available at press time.) But it was the size of the decreases — and the big markets where they occurred — that caused the overall RSN average to drop by double digits through Feb. 12.
According to Nielsen, the Mavericks enjoyed the highest regional TV ratings surge in the NBA this season. Dallas' 86 percent increases in viewership and ratings from last season to this season on Fox Sports Southwest surpassed No. 2 Denver's 77 percent increases. The average rating of Mavericks games on FSSW increased from 0.7 to 1.3. The numbers no doubt are a reflection of local excitement generated by the addition and play of rookie Luka Doncic, as well as late-season interest in the final games of Dirk Nowitzki's illustrious 21-season career.
TV ratings for games are down this season. The All-Star Game ratings were down. Silver said the league is struggling to reach the millions of fans from the target age 18-34 demographic who don't have cable or streaming packages. They care about the league but don't build the habit of watching games on TV or in person, a core tenet of creating revenue. "You see a tweet saying, 'Warriors-Rockets great matchup, Harden is going for 60.' The fact [is] you can't just [click] and get that game," Silver said. "That transactional friction has to be eliminated. We're being paid a lot of money to gate our content right now [by TV partners]. What's happening is demand and supply aren't meeting."
he NBA’s television doldrums so far this season are happening at the local level, too, where regional sports network ratings from 28 U.S.-based teams had dropped 10 percent on average at the All-Star break compared to the same point last year. Overall, most of the country’s RSNs have posted ratings gains this season; 15 have seen TV ratings increases in the first part of the season, and 13 have seen TV ratings decreases. (Information for Memphis and Toronto was not available at press time.)
The drop-off is most pronounced in some of the league’s biggest markets, like New York (down 41 percent on MSG Network), Chicago (down 36 percent on NBC Sports Chicago) and Boston (down 27 percent on NBC Sports Boston). Ratings for Bulls games in Chicago are at their lowest point in at least 13 years as the team has struggled on the court with one of the NBA’s worst records.
Storyline: TV Ratings
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