NBA Ratings Continue To Be Inexplicably Low
NBA ratings continue to be inexplicably low this month, with all of the Twitter chatter surrounding the league’s return not translating into an actual increase in viewers.
When the NBA resumed its season at the end of July, many observers assumed it would be a ratings boon for all involved. Networks were starved for sports programming as a result of COVID-19, and basketball’s glut of big name stars should have converted into a ton of viewership.
Only it didn’t.
NBA Ratings Got Off to A Rough Start
In the first week of action, the NBA’s ratings immediately sputtered. Rather than spiking due to an increase in hype and intrigue around the return of basketball, the numbers dipped to 14 percent below pre-COVID averages.
Last week, the games that took place from Thursday to Sunday drew smaller ratings than the same period the prior week.
As usual, the Los Angeles Lakers continued to do solid numbers. LeBron James and Co. delivered the most-watched game of the week when they defeated the Utah Jazz 116-108. The second-most watched outing of the week also featured the Lakers – this time a 113-97 defeat at the hands of the Houston Rockets.
Beyond that, though – the numbers were completely unimpressive.
A showdown between the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs with postseason implications that aired on ABC did 1.158 million viewers. That was down from the 1.663 million that the Boston Celtics drew in their 128-124 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
The NBA games themselves are not the only ones losing viewers, though.
Other NBA Programming Is Struggling As Well
ESPN was counting on the return of the NBA providing a ratings boost to its other programming. Thus far, it has not happened.
Pardon The Interruption, the network’s best-performing daily show, did 337,000 viewers last week. One year earlier, with no NBA games to discuss, it averaged 569,000 viewers.
The drop in interest is startling, and reflected in the declining ratings of The Jump, First Take and Around The Horn as well.
So what is the problem? What is causing these ratings to stall?
Related: How Does Dave Portnoy Keep Winning?
A Number Of Possible Causes
Some believe that sports in bubbles, with no fans in attendance, feel fake. The weird daytime scheduling coupled with the odd setup create an unmistakably different vibe for the games – and certain folks just don’t seem to be responding positively to it.
The other commonly-cited issue that is cited is that sports and politics have become too intertwined for their liking.
On one side, President Donald Trump is condemning athletes for kneeling during the National Anthem. On the other, the NBA is wearing social justice messages on the back of their jerseys.
Sports, which was once escapism from real world noise, has become just another political battleground.
“I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership.”
LeBron responded to President Trump saying NBA players kneeling during the anthem is “disgraceful.” pic.twitter.com/LRiOP08pTL
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 6, 2020
Things Can Still Change
Fortunately for the NBA and networks, there is still time for the TV ratings to go up.
Up to this point, the games that have taken place were strictly for seeding purposes. That, and to allow certain players to work themselves back into game shape.
Now the playoffs are on the horizon and the outings will starting having significance again.
Will that translate into an increase in viewership? Time will tell.