NBA Ratings Drop: New Poll Reveals Main Reason Why

NBA Ratings Drop: New Poll Reveals Main Reason Why

The NBA’s TV ratings have been dropping ever since the league returned to action from its brief suspension of play. There has been a lot of conjecture regarding the cause, with little evidence offered either way.

Some have pointed to changing consumer habits as to why the numbers are plummeting, while others maintain it has to do with the NBA’s increased politicization.

Last week, a Harris Poll aimed to get to the root of the issue. The agency reached out to almost 2,000 people and gave them 10 choices to select from on why they are watching less NBA action.

Respondents were permitted to choose more than one answer.

“The league has become too political” ultimately was the top reason why the people surveyed said they were tuning out, capturing 38 percent of the vote.

After that came “Boring without fans,” which got 28 percent of the vote.

“China” rounded out the top three, pulling in 19 percent of the vote.

It probably isn’t a huge shock based on the results of the polling, but NBA viewership is also incredibly divided based on party lines.

Among the people polled, 48 percent of Democrats “actively follow” the NBA, while only 34 percent of Republicans say the same.

That gap between the two parties is the biggest of any sport.

Harris has been a respected name in polling for more than 50 years, so while the sample size of this particular survey leaves something to be desired, its results should not be dismissed.

Although many within the league and several of its more notable partners have tried to minimize the NBA’s ratings decline for personal reasons, the numbers speak for themselves.

Despite the NBA Playoffs being in full swing and all the games having actual, genuine meaning, TV ratings for the first round were down 27 percent year over year.

Now, that doesn’t mean the NBA is currently going completely unwatched or the league is going out of business. It just means that a sport which is an immensely popular topic of conversation on social media is seemingly having a bit of trouble converting that conversation to an actual TV audience.

This past Sunday night an airing of Game 2 between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets reached 3.69 million viewers. It ranked behind 60 Minutes and America’s Funniest Home Videos on the daily TV chart, but ahead of Big Brother.

Game 2 also finished tops among adults 18 to 49.


All of that is good, and should be included in the conversation. But it doesn’t wash away the bad.

Last Friday’s Eastern Conference semifinal showdown between the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat drew 2.22 million viewers and 0.85 in the demo. A sub-1.0 demo rating for the NBA at this stage of the season, with the playoffs ongoing, is an objective disaster.

Somehow, over the past few weeks, what should be an impartial and data-based conversation regarding the NBA’s declining ratings has turned into a political talking point. Inevitably when that happens people begin to cherry pick the facts they want to believe, while dismissing the ones they don’t.

In one sense that is good for the NBA. If everyone was in agreement regarding what they were doing wrong, and the league still was unable to fix the matter, it would have a very difficult time explaining that. Because everyone is so divided regarding the ratings, the confusion can be used for cover.

That being said, the NBA still needs its ratings to go up. Eventually the excuses will run out and the numbers will speak for themselves even louder than they already have.

Ten years ago basketball looked to be on the verge of giving the NFL a serious run for its money domestically and challenging soccer overseas. Now the idea of either of those things happening seems like a pipe dream.

If the NBA doesn’t solve its viewership problems soon, it may quickly reach a low from which there is no returning.

Related: Kawhi Leonard’s Childhood Photo Goes Viral

Charles Kruger

Charles Kruger has been credentialed to cover two Super Bowls, four NBA Finals, and one World Series. A 20-year veteran in the sports world, he has sources spanning the NBA, MLB, NFL, UFC and NASCAR. Currently residing in Los Angeles, Calif., he is Game 7's go-to source for rumors surrounding the Lakers, Clippers and Dodgers.


  1. So, NBA ratings are down, and this research suggests that the the biggest reason is that many people feel the league has become too politicized. Given the current political atmosphere, that shouldn’t be surprising. My response to that is… and, so?? So what? You have casual TV viewers who in good times might watch the games for entertainment. Maybe they think they’ll see Kanye West or Beyoncé in the stands. But they really just want to be entertained. They don’t wanna hear players talking about what it means to be black in America. They don’t want to have to bother themselves with questions of history, the accretion of passive and active discrimination over the 400 years since Africans were first brought here. If I were a player, I would say to these people, FU. If you’re too lazy or unempathetic to engage with the reality of our lives, don’t even watch. Just go watch something else. We don’t need you. We don’t want you. We’re happy to play the game for people who care. Hardcore basketball fans know what the deal is, far more than football or baseball fans, imo. Basketball will be fine without these fans. No way in the world is this a looming catastrophe for professional basketball.

    1. BLM is a Marxist organization. They admit it on their own website. They want to abolish the nuclear family, want to de-fund police forces, and want to abolish all jails and prisons. They want no ramifications for crime and believe support anarchy.

      They do not care about black on black crime (which is 100 times more prevalent than the relatively few police crimes which have them so up in arms). They do not want to address the real issues, and are far more racist against whites than vice-versa. They claim to be for social justice, but fully support slave labor in communist China.

      They only want laws that benefit their anarchist agenda, and do not care if they alienate half of their customer base. Let’s see how many millions they can make when the NBA is relocated to China (where it belongs). I used to be a life-long Lakers/NBA fan, but can honestly say I will never watch another game. Since they’ve identified people like me are their enemy, why on earth would I support them? My country is far more important to me than a bunch of whiney millionaires.

      1. I couldn’t agree more! I’ve been a die hard fan for over 25 years and now I can’t imagine ever watching another game. Between 1 sided racial politics and the utter disrespect for our veterans and country, it’s become a disgusting sideshow. You’re also correct on the real issue. Look at why there is a disconnect between police and black neighborhoods. It is not because police are racist! Look at the way you live and treat each other. BLM? To whom are they supposed to matter?? They clearly don’t matter to your own people.

        1. Amen to that! People watch pro sports to escape reality not pick the scab that needs to heal. No more of my money will ever be spent on a shirt, a ticket, or any product associated with the NBA. I watched the Lakers when James Worthy was like a hero to me – they can all shove it. People dont want to hear the super-rich athlete talking about politics or how tough it is out there. They dont have a clue about real life.

      2. Well said, Jake. I, too, was a Lakers/NBA fan since the days of West and Baylor. Like you, I am boycotting both the Lakers and the NBA. It is grossly irresponsible for the NBA to use its product to propagandize me. And its attempt to sell me a noxious ideology is particularly disgusting.

      3. NBA fan for over 50 years. Loved the Celtics teams of the 60’s. Bill Russell was the man. The Lakers with Kareem and later Magic Johnson were great. Enjoyed the Bulls with Michael Jordan. I like the sport and the competition.
        Never missed the playoffs and the NBA Finals. Today it is different. The sports teams and players care nothing about me and what I see makes it painfully obvious. They only care about themselves and their own political statements. The sport is gone. The team is gone. And soon I think the fans will be gone. Heartbreaking.

    2. I grew up in an all-black community, but it was a relatively safe neighborhood since parents worked, remained married, children graduated high school, and people had mutual respect for one another. Remain a victim, blame others, and see where it gets you. Why should I invest my time in effort into a certain section of the population?
      A) What makes you so special? Things are tough all over, but it’s always about you you you.
      B) Where’s the self-accountability? 90% of black Americans are murdered by other black Americans.
      C) BLM despises white America, so why do they want white America to help them fix everything?
      D) There is no end game. It will always be about “systemic racism”.
      I don’t need the NBA either. If the Lakers win the championship, will the team visit China to meet XiJinping?

    3. Haha…what a phony response. Let’s ask the players their opinion about human rights and China…silence. Bunch of hypocrites and everyone but you knows that.

      1. Dan,
        You are displaying the problem perfectly. If you disagree then it’s resorting to name calling and accusations. God forbid you listen to someone else.

        1. Shawn, disagree…but let’s all realize that black men like Terry Crews were vilified for simply saying that they wanted equality….men like Marcellus Wiley were vilified for saying that they didn’t support the organization Black Lives Matter because of what they stood for….Name calling? I don’t believe i’ve heard that from a TeaParty rally, but i sure have heard it from some elements of BLM in places like Chicago, Seattle and NY even on CNN and MSNBC towards law enforcement. Are there problems? Absolutely. But when one side comes at it with “you are wrong, we are right, you must side with us or we will hate you forever”, it’s pretty hard for a lot of the country to really want to jump on board and totally clasp hands to try to find a better day, for ALL of us!

    4. You may say good riddance to the fans who supported the game. The players may say this too. However, every dime of the player’s bloated pay ultimately comes from the fans. Whether it’s advertising, merchandise or filling the stadiums. When that dries up and the NBA can no longer pay these over-paid cry babies what skills do they really have left? “Yes, I’ll have fries with that thank you!”

    5. That’s great, I agree with you 100%. But they should also not change their tune and stick to their guns when the decline in ratings results in a decline in tv deals and declines in their salaries and sponsorship deals.

      1. Juan,,

        They’ve already shown what they’ll do when their money is threatened: cave in without a word. It just happened lasr week or so. They were all about boycotting until Nike stepped in. What happened? They were on the court the next day without a word. When sponsors start seeing revenue losses, they’ll step in again and the politics in sports will go away.

    6. Great enjoy your 40% decline in viewership and attendance. Of course the league will survive without those fans.
      I do find it interesting that Lebron James got all bent out of shape because an NBA executive expressed a desire to see Hong Kong free. That was enough for Lebron to lose it. Imagine someone expressing a desire for people to be free.
      James was upset because he may lose his millions, while millions of Chinese are jailed for their religious beliefs.

      1. no only jailed but sent to concentration camps. LeBron is a loser. Screw the NBA. I hope you go out of bussiness or better yet why don’t you leave the United States and go to China. Take the woke scumbags with you too. Dont let the door hit you in the ass

    7. Grown millionaires preaching to me about racial equality? That’s absolutely laughable. I watched for 40 years and it’s now that it comes to and end, not going to support the BS any longer, and I really don’t care it the nba lives or dies.

    8. What you don’t understand Pete is that the people that choose to not spend their leisurely time being lectured actually DO SUPPORT the piece of BLM that is against systematic racism. They just don’t want to spend that part of their day being lectured by it…you’re right though…the NBA can do whatever they want…they don’t even have to play basketball…they can all just sit at a table and talk about racial injustice…it is up to the consumer if they want to watch that…doesn’t make them racist or ignorant though…

    9. Peter,
      I have reread your posts several times just to make sure that I get it. I think I do. You don’t want me, and you don’t need me.
      That is what I read. That is what I feel from the NBA players as well. Good luck with that.

    10. the league is free to do anything they want. Sure, they can say FU to large segments of fans. Fair enough.Those fans will never watch. I’m glad for the league that losing ~1/3 of their fans is not a looming catastrophe. Good for them.

    11. BILL Russell , Bob Gibson, wilt Chamberlain great advocates for equality for black Americans. NEVER BROUGHT THIER SHIT TO THE GAME !!! And thier impact will be felt long after these rich clowns fage away . Even MUHAMMAD ALI didn’t BRING his shit to the ring .

    12. Please step back and listened to yourself = we are all the same hardcore fans that want the same game played without drama. It’s really simple, not rocket science.

    13. Some of us are big sports fans AND have moral character. Sports has traditionally been a-political and now that many sports have allowed politics to creep in, I won’t watch; period. Maybe I’d watch if the protests were legitimate but FACTS show that America is the least racist multiracial country in the world and Blacks have much bigger problems than racist police like black on black crime &80% of black children raised without a father to name a few.

    14. you are soooooo woke. these oppressed millionaires could form their own league and create their own game instead of culturally appropriating a game invented by the evil white devil

  2. During times of elevated political turmoil and animosity, I watch sports as an escape from such matters. Sports used to be a politics-free “bubble”. Not any more. So despite being a life-long Celtics fan, I’m not watching the NBA playoffs.

  3. Why would I want to watch a bunch of over paid, ungrateful “oppressed” athletes? Particularly when they think their political opinions matter. No thanks

  4. I’ve been an NBA and 76ers fan for over 50 years. I watch the NBA because I love the sport and I like to root hard for my Sixers and become totally immersed in the quest for victory and a championship. I watched one game after the restart and now I don’t watch anymore. The NBA has endorsed a political organization and is forcing me to read Black Lives Matter on the court for 2.5 hours. I don’t have anything against BLM. I just don’t agree with all their stated viewpoints. I wanted to watch basketball. The NBA is forcing politics on me. I’m out. I’ll go watch baseball.

  5. Sjw have ruined everything. i will boycott anything woke. I have switched my viewing habits to old movies and TV shows and foriegn movies which are better than anything Hollywierd produces. As far as pro sports………boring. also they are total hypicrats. I would like to see professional sports fold. The only way to stop these people is to hit them where it hurts, in the wallet.

  6. You all expect the NBA rating to stay the same while overall TV rating have dramatically declined? This has got be the stupidest, most illogical reasoning I’ve seen in quite a while. lol

  7. My concern is, what will we do in the end through all the harsh words, protests and discussion on line and elsewhere. Will we ever really fix anything? Will we help those that are obviously being hurt by substandard educational systems in big cities, by lack of opportunities for children to grow up with the support they need, with fatherless children on all sides becoming more the acceptable norm? Sadly, i fear that things won’t really change, that we’ll have more separation rather than a coming together brought on by sports and teamwork, camaraderie, friendship and fellowship. Sadly, those with the loudest voices are often those that get the most attention while many get cast aside for not fully signing up for whatever the far left or far right are pushing that day.

  8. A more accurate read on this poll would be to say that almost 60% (57% to be exact) cited the NBA’s political positions as reason for severe drop in ratings. Citing “China” is as political as it gets.
    Speaking for myself, as a life long Laker fan (starting with Jerry West), I am done. The NBA’S official support for BLM (the organization, not the sentiment, of course) was it for me. This is an openly Marxist organization which for those of us who know what Marxism stands for is impossible to tolerate. Combined with the NBA’S grotesque hypocrisy with respect to China, I honestly view the NBA as part of an overall threat to our way of life. It’s that fundamental and I am not alone here. Unless and until folks like LeBron James show any sign that they oppose the BLM riots, their association with Antifa and have the balls to criticize China in same way as the country which allows them to be billionaires for playing a game, I am finished. I don’t matter alone but millions of people are obviously voting with their eyeballs and eyeballs drive the $$$.

  9. Not to mention the basketball has been lackluster. Every game at least once and announcer who is trying to ignore the selfishness prevalent in the game has to say, “…Doncic/Harden/James/Lillard/Murray/George/Jokic needs to get back on defense and stop having a conversation with the referee. His team is playing 4 on 5 and giving up easy points that will come back to haunt them…..”

    These high salaried guys are ruining the game and salary opportunity for the younger guys. Everybody knows it, but union brothers maintain code of silence.The ‘I Got To Git Mine’ attitude is destroying the NBA. Ratings don’t lie.

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