Based on the current climate for the broadcast industry and how viewers consume entertainment, breaking even or even a small decline in ratings from previous years should be considered a win. Yet this season, the NBA has continuously exceeded expectations with an increase in their TV ratings which continued for Saturday’s start of the playoffs.
According to ESPN, the Saturday quadruple-header on ESPN and ABC to kick off the first round of the NBA playoffs was up 17 percent with their metered market ratings, giving them the highest-rated opening Saturday since 2013. The four Saturday games averaged a 2.7 metered market rating, with each game topping its corresponding window from last season.
The first game of the playoffs, the 76ers against the Miami Heat drew a 2.9 rating on ESPN, up 26% from last year’s Spurs vs Grizzlies game and the highest opening Saturday game since 2012. The Warriors victory over the Spurs garnered a 3.3 rating on ABC, up 14 percent from last season’s Cavs – Pacers matchup in the same timeslot.
The Raptors vs Wizards game on ESPN generated a ratings increase of 17 percent from last year’s Raptors – Bucks game. Finally, the late game which saw the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Portland Trail Blazers enjoyed a 2.3 metered market rating, up 10 percent from the Clippers – Jazz matchup in 2017.
Ratings were down for the Winter Olympics and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament which is almost to be expected due to streaming and fragmented audiences. Yet, the NBA, even with its lack of parity and teams’ tanking, still continues to draw a large audience by offering one of the best products on television.