OT: NBA TV Ratings Way Down, Some Blaming Lebron to LA

Submitted by uofmfan_13 on January 17th, 2019 at 7:23 PM

NBA ratings way down on Turner (22%) and down 5% on ESPN to date.  Lebron to LA is hurting them in primetime in East, Central time zones.  


The NBA needs to take a page out of NCAA and pro football's play-book... scale back the season to 40 some games, make the match-ups dominated around weekends (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night games only) and holidays, get rid of All-Star game break until after postseason, bring back one-and-done in first round of playoffs, make playoff seeding regardless of conference, and overall increase the drama and rivalries to increase the viewership. 

They won't though.  And when Lebron leaves... buh-bye big money contracts to guys riding the bench for 38 minutes a night. 



January 17th, 2019 at 8:51 PM ^

The NBA has been on the rise for several years now, so stuff like this is bound to happen. The Lebron move might make a difference (not only is he out west, but he's obviously not going to win his conference) but some of the trouble might be the feeling that we know how the season is going to finish. 

A couple of years ago, when Golden State was the new thing, they were exciting and still kind of an underdog favorite (because they hadn't won anything yet) and there was genuine uncertainty about what would happen when the Warriors and the Clippers and the Thunder and the Spurs met in the playoffs, when all were great teams. Lebron was out east, so the Finals were guaranteed to be interesting and competitive. 

Now, it's still the Warriors. And, as far as most people are concerned, some pretenders.

That can shave some viewers.


January 17th, 2019 at 10:36 PM ^

Yep, I agree stephen.

We're nearing the end of the road for a transcendent player - LeBron (he'll probably play for a number of years, but his decline is inevitable). 

If LeBron had gone to Philly we might be looking forward to an epic finals showdown; now it seems inevitable the W's will win again, barring injury.

Russell's Celtics (so I've read) and maybe Jordan's Bulls were the only teams that seem so overwhelmingly favored to win. Even the Shaq/Kobe Lakers didn't seem that much better than the rest of the league.


January 17th, 2019 at 8:55 PM ^

not fun to watch.  the '80's and '90's battles b/w the pistons, celts, lakers, hawks, etc were 10X more intense and enjoyable than today's pro hoops.  way more drama, way more character development in that you knew the other players well and appreciated their games. nowadays, i dunno, check out the beard?  i can appreciate their athleticism but it is so lacking in heart. 


January 17th, 2019 at 8:57 PM ^

Every major sport could probably use a little trim on the number of games save for football. But, it will never happen. Too much cash on the line each game.  Eventually the World Series will be played in Dec in a neutral setting down south like the Super Bowl. 


January 17th, 2019 at 10:46 PM ^

Agree with your main point Froze, but baseball's had the same number of regular season games for almost 60 years, and the least bloated postseason of the big 4.

Many disagree, but I love the 1 game wild card in MLB - it rewards and provides an incentive to win your division, but doesn't completely exclude really good teams that get stuck in great divisions. And it makes a first-round postseason game really exciting.

NHL and NBA both have way too many playoff teams IMO. More than half the teams should not be rewarded with playoff berths. 


Hotel Putingrad

January 17th, 2019 at 9:15 PM ^

I bet they're up in Milwaukee, Houston, LA, Boston, Philly, Oklahoma City, and the Bay area. There's no real reason to watch anywhere else unless you're a hard, hard-core fan.


January 17th, 2019 at 9:17 PM ^

They could also try playing basketball.

I’m going to go all “get off my lawn” here but when I was a kid in the 70s, there was basketball and then the touring Harlem Globetrotters.

Kids loved the Globetrotters. Trick shots. Curly Neal making improbable half court shots on the regular. Clowning  the refs and the other team.

However, everyone knew the Globetrotters weren’t a team they were showmen. Actors playing roles in simulated games.

Largely, in the past 40 years, basketball has disappeared on the professional level and now there are 32 versions of the Globetrotters.

The fans have noticed.


January 17th, 2019 at 9:40 PM ^

That is not at all what's happening.

1. Last year the NBA ratings were higher than EVER...so your whole argument is ridiculous. Just because it's down this year doesn't mean it has anything to do with the 70s or 80s or 90s.

2. The fans have noticed? The NBA and college aren't drastically different games. No more than the NFL and college football. People still tune in every Sunday...it's not about the glory years.

Fans haven't noticed shit...there is a direct correlation with the best player of the majority of their fans lives moving to a timezone that is too late for them to care enough to stay up and watch.

You also have one of the best teams (over the course of 3-4 years) in the Warriors who, gee golly, are on the west coast.

The NBA can put the Knicks and the Wizards in the 7pm EST slot all they want...no one is watching that shit. By halftime of the game that they do want to watch...half the country is in bed.

People may like LeBron, but not more than sleep when they have to work at 8am the next day. Ain't nobody got time for that shit.


January 17th, 2019 at 10:16 PM ^

You are contradicting yourself and accidentally buttressing my argument.

If the movement of a single player to a different time zone can affect interest and viewership this much it’s proof that the product sucks.

You even admit a Knicks Wizards matchup sucks. It’s basically glorified WWE with a ball and a hoop.

By the way, when previous iterations of the Lakers were the epicenter of the NBA you did not hear excuses about time zones.


January 18th, 2019 at 12:43 AM ^

The fans have not noticed.

Last year saw a temporary drop in NFL ratings; this is just a similar blip for the NBA.

The NBA is far more popular now than it has ever been, by any measure (other than MgoBlog message board posters, apparently).

Despite the recent drop, ratings in this era are higher than ever, even though there are way more televised games now; attendance and gate are higher. Franchises are far more valuable. 

In the US, the NBA has probably become the second most popular pro sport.

Furthermore, NBA players are international celebrities, and a good chunk of the highest paid athletes are NBA players (Forbes says 40 of the top 100 world-wide).



January 18th, 2019 at 1:26 AM ^

By any measure?  I'd be curious to know which measures.  I do think globally it is more popular than ever but I don't think it gets US ratings shares like it used to in the 90s.

I've seen that NBA on ABC games have declined from around 5 viewership shares in the 90s to about 2.5 (Granted it's bounced between 2 and 3 for a while now).

Rose Bowl

January 17th, 2019 at 9:25 PM ^

I don't dislike Lebron, the NBA is just hard to watch.  There are a lot of games, just like MLB...and even the NFL to some point.  The regular season is too long.  I'll watch a couple games of the finals.  Went to a Magic game last week.  Honestly I prefer the TV to that experience.


January 17th, 2019 at 9:26 PM ^

The nba has been the only league increasing ratings for like the last 5 years, the all star game is incredibly popular and does much better than the nfl all star game.

Sure shortening the season makes sense but overall the nba is doing better than the other major leagues and this feels like a real knee jerk reaction.


January 17th, 2019 at 9:37 PM ^

Maybe the problem is simply that the NBA game sucks ass, and it's personalities are largely character-less people?

I like college sports better than pros.  Not the same talent level, granted, but far better competition and effort.  The NBA has been unwatchable for decades.  The NFL. I haven't watched but maybe 15 minutes this year.  Don't miss it...


January 17th, 2019 at 9:44 PM ^

Character-less people? Care to explain?

The NBA has more personalities now than it has had since the 96 Dream Team II or whatever they called themselves. The NBA over the last 5 years is healthier than it's been in DECADES.

Don't get me wrong, the NBA from like '98-LeBron winning his first title was TRAAAAASH. But it's actually pretty good now. Not college, but it's pretty good.

However, I couldn't give 2 shits about it over my sleep. Have you ever slept? That shit is AMAZING! LeBron can kiss my ass if he thinks I'm giving up that shit to watch him.


January 17th, 2019 at 10:23 PM ^

Lebron and trump this and that, I didn't even care enough to read more about it but who gives two f's, just play the game, if you don't like the president and you're an NBA star, stop giving him attention, it's what he thrives on and will egg them on to get more. Just play the game and f the politics.


January 17th, 2019 at 9:52 PM ^

Professional basketball is far superior to college ball. Watching college ball can be a chore sometimes because of the mistakes and lack of refinement. In fact the only college teams I really enjoy are UNC (fast breaks until you die) and Beilein teams because his offense was really a prelude to what the NBA became.


Its funny that the criticism for the NBA used to be too much ISO basketball. Now we have teams like Golden State where they play an incredible efficient ball sharing offense and that's boring.


Maybe non-NBA fans should just admit they don't really like basketball.




January 17th, 2019 at 11:29 PM ^

I like the NBA, but I agree uofmfan.

It's frustrating to watch Harden and LeBron stand around on D. I don't know how you can help that without shortening the season (won't happen). There's WAY more D played in the NBA than people here seem to believe, but there are guys who don't go all out until absolutely necessary - playoffs.

OTOH, in college you have guys who are simply not capable of playing D. Those guys get exposed in the NBA pretty quickly. You'd better be a damn good shooter if you can't guard anyone.

The other frustration I have with NBA ball is traveling. I don't understand why they feel it helps the game to let stars take as many steps as they want.  LeBron and Harden (and Jordan before them) don't need the help.



January 18th, 2019 at 8:06 AM ^

Leonard plays all out on defense. A handful of others. Here in Washington DC we have/had John Wall who does not give consistent effort and will never give effort now that he's owed, I think, upwards of $100 million still guaranteed.

My beefs with the NBA aren't because I want to see it fail... My beefs are because for all the Lebron talk about it being a "players league" they aren't listening to fans and it's clear fans want a consistent product with drama, rivalries and real defense again. 


January 18th, 2019 at 2:21 PM ^

Yeah, Leonard plays hard, as do most guys who aren't superstars - they have to, to get minutes and stay in the league. 

LeBron is so damn good he can have an impact on D without even trying - when he does put forth effort he's incredible D. I get it too - he's 34, the season's long, and he conserves his energy.

Klay is one of the best defenders in basketball, and KD can be dominant when he goes all out. Harden, OTOH, just doesn't care about D - D'antoni's style is like earlier Beilein - outscore the other team.

As for the NBA not listening to fans, I don't agree with that - the NBA just has a different approach. I think Silver is very fan-focused, and he realizes fans care about NBA stars.

NFL and MLB are about teams, NBA is about players. They don't wear helmets and there are only 5 guys on the floor - the league has marketed individuals for years. It's a "player's league" because star players make the league click with fans, and superstars drive team success.

When the W's move into their new arena next year some say it will be up with the Cowboys, Yankees and Lakers among the most valuable franchises in sports. That doesn't happen without Steph and Klay and KD - those players have added literally billions to the value of the franchise.

It's not Warriors v. Pelicans - it's Steph and KD vs. Anthony Davis. Been that way since at least Bird v. Magic.

The league was super popular during Jordan's Bulls era - and did they really have a "rival"? No one could beat them, and fans couldn't get enough.


January 17th, 2019 at 10:06 PM ^

I just don’t think the product is very good. It if takes one player to prop up ratings, the problem isn’t the player moving time zones....it’s the league itself.


January 17th, 2019 at 10:37 PM ^

It also doesn't help that it's pretty clear GSW is going to win another title.  Boston had a chance to play the role of spoiler but they've underwhelmed relative to expectations and everyone else who you'd consider semi-competitive from the East (Toronto, Philly, Bucks) either have some baggage or clear-enough flaws that it's hard to envision them holding up.

Boner Stabone

January 17th, 2019 at 10:44 PM ^

I have not watched the NBA since the mid 2000's with the Go to work Pistons.  The product is just not good anymore.  You know the finals will be Golden State and i am tired of no defense and immense traveling.  Give me the college game or even a good high school game before the NBA.


January 17th, 2019 at 10:46 PM ^

Regulating most forms of defense out of the game is what is hurting NBA ratings. Nobody wants to watch a free throw shooting contest when there's football on TV.


January 17th, 2019 at 11:37 PM ^

You could make a similar criticism of the NFL, turtle. How many interference/holding/roughing calls until an NFL game isn't fun anymore? 

I think both sports favor offense too much, but people forget how awful it was to watch those dirty Pat Riley hand-check, grab and hack Knicks teams, and NBA games with 85-79 scores - woof.

Both sports seem to feel that more scoring = better ratings.


January 17th, 2019 at 10:52 PM ^

NBA sucks now and the self proclaimed "KING Lebron" is a total jackass. Image all of the great players like Jordan back in the day making some of the most uneducated outrageous statements the "King" makes!!! It sucks and wouldn't bother me one bit to see it dissolve. 

Hotel Putingrad

January 17th, 2019 at 11:07 PM ^

The athleticism is off the charts, but there aren't enough good shooters.

And the players like each other too much. Basketball is best when there are rivalries. Even Cleveland vs. Golden State didn't really feel cutthroat the last few years.

Hotel Putingrad

January 18th, 2019 at 11:02 AM ^

Except you're wrong. Between the arrival of Bird/Magic in '79 and MJ's last title in '96, league FG% never dropped below 46 2 and was frequently in the 48-49% range. It's currently at 46, and in the past 20 years has frequently been  in the 43-44 range.

Yes, three point shooting is better now, and there is some high volume chucking going on, but shooting overall is down significantly from the 1980s.


January 18th, 2019 at 5:41 AM ^

NBA is by far the crappiest sport of the "big 4" it's very hard to watch NBA games,they are incredibly boring .... lets jack up as many 3s as possible and hope we hit 25% of them .

If the NBA moved the 3 point line back 12 inches,the sport would die