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State of the Screens

Why NBA TV ratings are down

By December 12, 2019No Comments

YoY change in NBA ratings by network according to Sports Business Journal:
TNT – ↓ 22%
ESPN – ↓ 19%
Regional Sports Networks (RSN) – ↓ 7%

Average viewers/game (YoY growth):
1) 2018-19 – 1.75M
2019-20 – 1.45M (↓ 17%)

Quote from Adam Silver – Commissioner @ NBA:
 “Especially for the NBA, which is primarily a cable-satellite sport, that system is broken to a certain extent… It’s not just in terms of the loss of homes, but our young viewers, in particular, are tuning out cable, traditional cable.”

The big question: Would the NBA fare better on broadcast TV?  Mak Cuban seems to think so.

Teams w/ the most nationally televised games in 2019-20:
1) Los Angeles Lakers – 43
2) Golden State Warriors – 42
3) Los Angeles Clippers – 26

NBA TV rights fees/year (% change) by deal according to Sports Business Journal:
2002-08 – $767M
2008-16 – $930M (↑ 62%)
3) 2016-25 – $2.6B (↑ 215%)

The big big picture: The NBA’s future is in China.

Key details for the NBA in China:
1) 490M 
people in China watched NBA content on Tencent last year
2) 21M people in China watched part of Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Tencent
3) 18M people (average minute audience) watched Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals in the U.S.

More #1: NBA ratings are in a steep decline: Sorting through some popular myths — and looking for a solution

More #2: NBA TV Now Available as Direct Streaming Service, No Cable or Satellite TV Required 

More #3: NBA Sets Earlier Start Times for TV Doubleheaders

Michael Beach

Michael Beach

Michael Beach is the Chief Executive Officer of Cross Screen Media, a media analytics and software company that enables marketers to plan, activate, and measure CTV and linear TV at the local level. Michael is also the founder and editor of State of the Screens, a weekly newsletter focused on video advertising that is a must-read for thought leaders in the advertising industry. He has appeared in such publications as PBS Frontline, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Axios, CNBC and Bloomberg, and on NPR’s Planet Money podcast.

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