NBA Ratings, NFL Ratings Trending In Same Direction

NBA Ratings, NFL Ratings Trending In Same Direction

NBA ratings and NFL ratings are trending in the same direction these days.

Although talk of how football dominates basketball in the ratings isn’t necessarily wrong, it does not speak to where the numbers for both sports are veering.

While Week 3’s full ratings aren’t in yet, through the first two weeks of the season the NFL’s TV audience is down 6.5 percent. The NBA’s decline is more pronounced, with ratings for this year’s playoffs down by as much as 40 percent for certain outings.

The NFL’s average audience for Week 1 was 16.2 million – down 8 percent from last year. Week 2 saw the average dip to 14.8 million, but that actually resulted in a smaller year-over-year decline of 5 percent.

No matter how you spin the numbers, though – the NFL’s ratings numbers are not heading upwards. Over the past two years the league has done an admirable job fixing the mistakes that led to a 10 percent viewer decline in 2017, but it appears that is now over.

Things are not going much better for the NBA.

Last week’s Western Conference showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets fell a staggering 41 percent from a comparable outing between the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers in 2019.

The Eastern Conference Finals dealt with a similar problem.

Last Wednesday’s showdown between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics averaged 4.48 million viewers. That number was down 15 percent from a comparable game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors in 2019, and 44 percent from a Cleveland Cavaliers and Celtics showdown from 2018.

Game 5 on Friday night, somehow, did even worse than Game 4 – with 4.37 million viewers.

Earlier in the Eastern Conference Finals, Game 2 between the Heat and Celtics recorded the lowest total for a Conference Finals outing since 2003, when the New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons averaged 2.72 million for Game 4 of their series.

All of which is to say, both the NFL and the NBA are struggling when it comes to ratings. It is not a one sport or one league issue – although basketball is definitely getting hit harder than football.

As far as what is responsible for the decline – there are several theories on that.

Some believe this all boils down to consumption habits. People are streaming more – both legally and illegally – and watching TV less.

Others think this is a political issue. Both the NBA and NFL have been very vocal as it pertains to social justice issues over the past few months. Critics suggest that this is a turn off to potential viewers.

Although the latter idea is considered sacrilege in some corners of Twitter, it is not baseless.

A survey recently conducted by the Harris Poll attempted to get to the bottom of the ratings decline by polling 2,000 people.

“The league has become too political” was the top voter getter as far as reasons why people are tuning out, taking in 38 percent of the vote.

In second place came “Boring without fans,” which captured 28 percent of the vote.

Finally, “China” came in third place, with 28 percent of the vote.

The most likely explanation is that a combination of factors are contributing to this decline for both the NBA and NFL.

What makes the whole situation interesting is that media rights have become a major revenue driver for all parties involved. There are billions of dollars on the line.

The NFL’s media deals expire within the next two years. As recently as 2019, future projections were notably higher than they are now.

Meanwhile, in 2014, ESPN and TNT signed a nine-year deal to broadcast NBA games that was worth $2.66 billion per year. Networks want to see a return on that investment, and that is hard to do when ratings are plummeting.

One way or another, the commissioners of these leagues are going to need to figure out what the problems are. And once they do, they better fix them.

If they don’t, then everyone – teams, players, owners and leagues – will all end up paying a steep price.

Related: LeBron James’ Breonna Taylor Tweet Sparks Debate

Carlos Garcia

A longtime sports reporter, Carlos Garcia has written about some of the biggest and most notable athletic events of the last 5 years. He has been credentialed to cover MLS, NBA and MLB games all over the United States. His work has been published on Fox Sports, Bleacher Report, AOL and the Washington Post.


  1. Most people watch sports for entertainment, and as a brief escape from the daily grind. Being reminded repeatedly that the USA is a racist pace, that our Flag is a symbol of evil, and that most white people have benefited from “white privilege” is not entertainment, it is propaganda. This leaves viewers with only two choices: switch the channel, or be forced to endure “wokeness” from a group of overpaid athletes. The decision made by many is reflected in the plummeting ratings.

    1. I agree. I don’t need to be “woke” therefore I stopped watching sports. Fans don’t needs sports. Sports needs fans. My life won’t change without sports, in fact now I have freed up several hours in my week to do things that need to be done and time to enjoy other things.

  2. NBA will be OK. ESPN already signed on the dotted line, and they are owned by DISNEY. Disney/ESPN has already shown that their attempts at social engineering (i.e. woke agenda) are more important than the losses inflicted on their company along the way. Look at how the media still acts as though people care about the WNBA. ESPN loses a lot on that league, but the “woke” benefit is apparently greater than what they lose.

  3. Though socialism seems imminent at this point, most people still don’t want to be preached to by a Marxist organization. Most do not want their police de-funded, and prisons abolished. Most are still in favor of the nuclear family and the right to worship as they see fit. We do not want millionaire athletes shoving their anarchist Marxist beliefs down our throat.

    Used to be a huge NBA fan, but will NEVER watch another game.

  4. The problem is that you have a bunch of way way overpaid athletes, the average person can’t even afford to go watch these games live anymore because of the increase of costs, then you have all these athletes that are more or less criminals drugs, spousal abuse, weapons charges, murder etc talking about political issues, people are tired of that their jobs are sports entertainment and that’s it, nobody cares about their views especially when they start calling all the fans racist, the white fans I should say, I would hope that everybody out there would quit watching sports completely let them lose their revenue and bring them back to Earth with a reasonable pay instead of somebody like LeBron James who thinks they’re above everybody else, they’re good at what they do but they don’t deserve to pay they are getting, so let’s shut down the sports and bring them back to reality

  5. Get woke…go broke. Seems like it is the bell of truth is ringing and they are still scratching their their heads. Unreal….smfh

  6. It’s because they are disrespecting our flag and national anthem and they support criminals.Everyone I no quit watching for that reason

  7. They are driving away their White fan base, which is responsible for a significant portion of their revenue, whether it be from live ticket sales, broadcasting rights, or the sale of licensed merchandise. Over the years as the racial make-up of both leagues has become predominantly Black, they were still able to maintain support over a wide and diverse fan base that extended far beyond their own percentage of the overall population. This should have told them something about the non-racist nature of those very same fans. And yet they insisted on calling us names, and accusing us of harboring thoughts and feelings that we do not have, until we finally had enough of their BS and walked away. What did they expect would happen?

  8. I had enough wokeness. I mailed all my NFL hats, T shirts, and Jerseys back to NFL headquarters in NY. Roger Goddell probably doesn’t care, but I made my point. Will never watch the NFL again. Opening weekend I took my daughter to the park and had a much more enjoyable afternoon. Thanks NFL!

  9. LeBozo will probably retire soon, so he doesn’t care. He works for China, and Nike works for China as well, so he’s deep in it. He won’t dare speak about the concentration camps going on where forced labor for NIKE is going down today. He’s really some human rights champion we should all worship (LOL). I don’t know anyone who still watches the NBA or NFL. My family only watches NHL and there is a slim chance that won’t last any longer if they keep up the BLM support.

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