After the first 19 NBA games on ESPN this season, the network has seen a 24% increase in viewership over the same time period in 2016. Averaging an audience of 1,920,000 compared to 1,557,000 last year, ESPN’s broadcast of Warriors-Thunder last week garnered 3,282,000 viewers, their highest rated regular season game since Christmas Day 2016.
Amidst all of the ratings trouble the NFL is dealing with, both Major League Baseball and the NBA have experienced recent TV ratings success. All leagues must respond to cord cutting from consumers, but the NFL seems to have more public perception issues than the other sports. With CTE, anthem protests, bickering between owners, poor refereeing, and injuries to stars, the NFL hit hard times faster than anyone expected.
According to Sports TV Ratings, Nielsen estimates show NBA TV has lost over 1 million subscribers since August of this year. During the same time period, the two networks that carry a majority of the NBA’s national games are also losing subscribers, 274,000 customers dropped ESPN and 484,000 for TNT.
Not immune to cord cutting, the NBA is still managing to increase television ratings and expand globally. The success of the league and the popularity of its commissioner even caught the attention of the NFL.
With Roger Goodell attempting to sign a contract extension, one NFL owner reportedly contacted NBA commissioner Adam Silver to gauge his interest in running the most powerful league in American sports. Silver would not give details, but he also didn’t deny that he was asked about commissioning the NFL.
Silver’s current salary is $20 million per year compared to Goodell’s $34.1 million and the reported $50 million Roger’s requesting for his extension even while controversy circles the league.
“There is so much excitement surrounding the NBA and our viewership on ESPN is a reflection of that,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN Executive Vice President, Programming and Scheduling. “With a full slate of Christmas Day games next month and the start of our NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC schedule in January, it’s a great time to be an NBA fan.”
Is the NBA’s recent success due to a lack of controversy…more popular superstars…an easier game to follow…exciting young talent…or just still having more room to grow? Regardless, the NBA has to be excited with their start to this season and appreciative of a forward thinking commissioner who is well respected by the players.