OT: NBA television viewership is up 32%

Submitted by taistreetsmyhero on December 5th, 2017 at 2:16 AM

USA Today Link:

"Between ESPN, TNT and NBA TV, the league’s viewership is up 32% this season and averaging 1.4 million viewers according to Nielsen, the highest start to the season since the 2010-2011 campaign...

Last week’s Golden State Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game was ESPN's most watched regular season game (3.2 million) since Christmas of 2016. TNT’s opening night broadcast between the Cleveland Cavs and Boston Celtics, while ultimately marred by Gordon Hayward’s injury, was still the second-most watched season-opening telecast in the network’s history with an average of 5.6 million viewers."

Interesting to see, especially given the NFL's concurrent decline in viewership. I know the MGoBoard generally likes to shit on the NBA, but I encourage anyone who hasn't watched recently to give it another shot this year. I can't remember a season with more compelling teams, especially in the East. The Pistons are looking good again. The Bucks have a budding superstar. The 76ers' "Process" is finally starting to show results. The Celtics look like they will give Cavs a legit run for their money. LeBron is back to playing superhero ball without Kyrie.

And even a lot of the recently bad teams have interesting pieces. Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell (of the Louisville squad that we beat to reach the Sweet 16) had a 40 point game and has looked terrific. The Lakers are watchable again (as long as you mute the inevitable pregame and halftime Lonzo Ball discussions) with some promising young talent. The Knicks have another star in Porzingis, and THJ has played some great games for them. The Timberwolves have some really fun players to watch.

Long story long, if you're bored now that the college football regular season has ended, and you haven't enjoyed the NBA in the past, this is the time to give it another shot.



December 5th, 2017 at 2:54 AM ^

I like your update and it makes it feel like there's more parity than usual which is great.

But I stoped watching and attending the NBA games when it started to seem like the league's vision of impartiality was somewhere between Big Ten refereeing and the WWE. 

It's really hard once you lose trust.


December 5th, 2017 at 3:10 AM ^

Refs in just about every sport, college and professional, are getting ripped apart recently. NBA in particular is a hard sport to ref because the better teams often have vastly superior players that genuinely do draw fouls at a much higher rate...and, with advanced analytics influencing more and more teams, star players are taking advantage of rules to draw more fouls. Then you have players like LeBron who get hacked all the time but are so strong they can fight through the fouls that they get a ton of whistles but probably deserve even more.

I guess my point is that refereeing sucks in every sport, and the NBA is a particularly hard game to properly officiate. But, IMO, the amazing plays more than make up for it. Nearly every basket would be the play of the game in college. The skill is unreal.


December 5th, 2017 at 8:37 AM ^

Did you hear what Kyle Korver said last week?   Lebron got tossed from his first game ever last week when he lost it on an official for a no-call.  LBJ is very frustrated cause despite him shooting over 70% of his shots in the paint he's getting to the FT line less this year than at any time in his career and actually shoots less per game FTs than that inside bruiser Seth Curry!  

So when they asked Korver bout Lebron and the officials he said "when I played against him I said Jeez that guy gets EVERY call cause I thought he did.   But now that I'm on his team and watch him play I say Jeez that guy NEVER gets any calls cause I see how often and how hard he's fouled on virtually every play."

Cough loudly in the direction of Seth Curry and he'll fall down.   Hit Lebron on top of his head with a hammer and he might blink so the officials just let em play.  So who's right?

BTW I think the NBA is awesome.  


December 5th, 2017 at 1:00 PM ^

I can’t believe you are getting negged here. Lebron is Neymar level in regards to flopping. I still remember the Easter conf finals when Lebron was flopping all over the place. I will say he has improved in that regard but he is a big time flipper still. As far as the NBA, as with most professional sports, the games that aren’t in the playoffs are so boring, not a lot of ball movement, defense is optional. I have a hard time caring about any sport until playoff time, and like the nfl, I’ll watch it if I am really bored. I can watch the EPL though every weekend, because it is usually very exciting every week. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a City fan either.


December 5th, 2017 at 2:25 PM ^

I hate those video breakdowns because they are like highlight videos of recruits - you see them being awesome and not the half-dozen times they mess up.  

LeBron gets some superstar calls; he also gets beaten down repeatedly without anything.  Same with Shaq; physical marvels tend to not get as many calls as you'd think because defenders sorta have to be rough with them.  It's like defensive pass interference with hyper-aggressive DBs; the refs can't call it every time, and so after a while you just get used to hammering on these guys because that's your only option, and it's on the refs to handle it.


December 6th, 2017 at 1:01 PM ^

the craziest thing to me, is the "hype" over contested slam dunks.

especially because so many times, the dunker takes a full on fore-arm to the head/face, basically getting b*tch-slapped as they score, and somehow it's not a foul AND they are considered the "winner" in all of this

i'll never understand it


December 5th, 2017 at 12:32 PM ^

Issue with officials is grey area of what a foul is. I also am a firm believer that many officials aren't very clean. There is too easy of access for Vegas or Dirty Bookies to get to them. I watch a ton of basketball and it is easily the dirtiest officiated game. It is beyond simple for an official to control the games out come because of the extremly grey area of the rules.

NBA is hot because the Cavs/Warrior battle injected it with some energy. Then throw in Kyrie to Boston...PG to OKC and Houston and you have a handful of super fun teams to watch. 


December 5th, 2017 at 8:00 AM ^

So, 2002, when the fix was in for the Lakers against the Kings, or 1998, when the league decided that the Jazz could not be the standard-bearer and Jordan needed his 6th title, or 1991, when the league decided Jordan needed his first title, or 1988, when they wanted the Lakers to win the title back to back?  Or... 


December 5th, 2017 at 2:54 AM ^

Figured ratings would be down, with fans being turned off for many of same reasons as football (without the kneeling?) Even though a season ticket holder in the past, I’ve lost interest the past few years. Haven’t tuned into a game all year.


December 5th, 2017 at 3:14 AM ^

there are young stars that resonate with young people, scoring and quality of play is up, and it's become an international game.

The median age of NBA viewers is 42, compared to 57 for MLB, 50 for NFL and 49 for NHL (MLS is youngest in the US at median age 40).  The NBA has been able to attract and retain younger viewers where other leagues have failed and it bodes well for its future.


December 5th, 2017 at 6:36 PM ^

The one thing I'd say about that MLS number is they aren't drawing nearly as many fans/viewers as the other leagues.  I'm more impressed that the NBA can pull in that many young people given the millions who watch vs. the MLS pulling in young people but only with about 500-600k (or whatever it is) viewers.  


L'Carpetron Do…

December 5th, 2017 at 2:44 PM ^

You're half right. The product on the court is getting pretty good, unlike the NFL, which is getting worse. I don't even bother to watch most NFL games now - I used to watch almost every single game they put on TV. The current product is garbage. 

In the games I have seen this year they don't even seem to show the dudes taking a knee. So its not the issue people make it out to be. Also - if the next 3 hours weren't pure shit, I bet the first 3 minutes wouldn't matter.

The kneeling argument is a convenient red herring for people who want to make a weak political statement. 


December 5th, 2017 at 12:31 PM ^

Yep, and Kerr, SVG and Pop have been incredibly vocal about their thoughts on current administration and other social issues. Only reason there are no protests during anthem is because there are explicit rules on what you can and can’t do in players manual. NFL has never had that and could never pass it through the NFLPA at this point. I’m actually surprised NBAPA hasn’t challenged rule yet. Could be topic of discussion next CBA.


December 5th, 2017 at 3:08 AM ^

In addition to the OPs observations about compelling teams, the NBA will always have a greater share of superstars. Every team has 1-2 players that are legitimately fun to watch and The Association has become a lot more family friendly after the boorish behavior was stripped away.

Further, the rise of relatively diminutive players like Curry and Westbrook, freaky international stars like Kristaps and Giannis, pre-game courtside accessibility if you're at a game,  a smart digital platform and a savvy international outreach program all make sense to why this has gone up. Plus you can generally get in and out of a game in about two hours.

Lastly, and compared to the NFL, the NBA doesn't sustain itself on the physical deterioration of its employees. I don't see how this rise will taper in the near-term.



December 5th, 2017 at 6:15 AM ^

I used to love the NBA, and still admire the athleticism routinely on y more than that in any other sport. My problem stems from a sense that there is often not so much at stake regular season games, and that early-round playoffs are often over before they begin. Increasing parity really makes a difference, but it hard to create given the dynamics--and tendencies--of the market machine. Glad the league is in a good place for social reasons, too. 


December 5th, 2017 at 6:55 AM ^

...a big NBA fan when the Knicks featured Walt Frazier and the Pistons had Dave Bing. I loved watching the Lakers with Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain in epic clashes with the Celtics. The game felt more pure then; contact was limited and the refs less biased. That was, and is, basketball to me. I have tried, but the game I grew up loving and emulating (trying to) is now seeming so different that I don't recognize it. The last couple of years, I fear the bias against Michigan football has been so apparent that I may lose interest in college football too. Give me unbiased refs and fundamental purity or I'll watch old reruns. No NBA for me.


December 5th, 2017 at 8:41 AM ^

Many players are good because of the rules and not because of their skills. The NBA, like the NHL and MLB, has far too many games. The overall quality of the product is terrible a fact lost on many fans today who never saw the NBA ar it’s peak. The officiating is atrocious.

The NFL does not sustain itself on the deterioration of the it’s players. That comment makes absolutely no sense.

The NBA sees a rise in ratings because the NBA has tied itself into the music and entertainment industry. It is no longer sports, but sports entertainment.

The NBA blows.


December 5th, 2017 at 9:58 AM ^

When, from your perspective, was the NBA's peak? IMO (and I've been watching the NBA since the 1980s) this moment has one of the largest number of established stars plus up and coming players that I can remember. The league's main flaw is too many games. 

The NBA's doing well because 1. the game has changed to become much more free flowing and open, 2. it's a players league where skill and athleticism, not "genius coaches," who try to dictate everything (as in college) are the main story, 3. players connect with fans across social media and in marketing far better than in any other sport (to the point where off the floor stuff is often more interesting than the games themselves, which is the league's secondary flaw).

The NBA must have, what, 8 of the 10 most well known athletes in the US right now. Off the top of my head, in the NFL, only Brady and Rodgers (the third most well known NFL player is probably Kaepernick) are nationally famous in the way that LeBron, Curry, Durant, Harden, Westbrook, Chris Paul, and Kyrie are. And that's not to mention up and coming players like Embiid, Simmons, Porzingis (already beloved in NYC), and Giannis. The NHL and MLB don't really have anyone at those levels of fame now that Jeter's retired.



December 5th, 2017 at 10:05 AM ^

Add in that sportswriting about the NBA's taken a huge leap over the past decade, with detailed breakdowns of how offenses and defenses work by folks like Zach Lowe, the Grantland/Ringer people, and you get a look into the strategy akin to what Brian provides here for M football.


December 5th, 2017 at 11:39 AM ^

NBA unis allow a better look at players and the continuous close up camera shots during free throws, after fouls etc. along with a court where you can virtually reach out and touch players create a more "accessible"game.

Contrast this with heavily padded NFL players and cavernous stadiums where without jersey names/ numbers, you couldn't tell one guy from the next. Because of all of the above, NBA personalities show through more and there are far fewer of them so fans may develop a stronger connection. This is probably why the NBA promotes superstars and the NFL promotes teams.

TLDR: NBA players are more visible/recognizable


December 5th, 2017 at 6:04 AM ^

It surpassed the NFL for me a couple of years ago. This year I haven’t watched a minute of NFL action, and have watched by far the least amount of non-Michigan college football since I moved out of my TV-less dorm room.

But there’s an NBA game on most every night, and I’ll turn it right on. The product is really exciting, and the incredible amount of player movement this summer created some compelling storylines and interesting teams. Paul-Harden on the Rockets, George and Carmelo teaming up with Westbrook, the Celtics and Cavs trading star PGs with each other three months after meeting in the conference finals, the Celtics in general turning over 75% of their roster after having the top record in the East, the list goes on. Add to it some of the teams with young stars like Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Minnesota, the continued superstardom of LeBron, and dominant play of Golden State, and it really feels like we’re entering a new Golden Age of NBA basketball.

Glad to see the ratings indicate I’m not alone in my increased appreciation for the league.

Goggles Paisano

December 5th, 2017 at 6:23 AM ^

I loved the NBA back in the late 70's 80's and 90's.  I paid it less attention in the early 2000's and then completely shut it off.  I did however watch a fair amount of the playoffs last year and thought it was pretty good.  I probably won't watch much of the regular season, but will likely tune in for the playoffs.  I will agree with the OP that it is getting better.  

I've always hated the Celtics, but will be rooting for them to take down the Cavs this year.  Also nice to see the Pistons get off to a good start even though I know very little about their players other than Drummond.  


December 5th, 2017 at 6:36 AM ^

are doing. This year is seems like they made some good changes so I keep an ear out for them. I haven't watched a full game this year but I have them on the back burner and will DVR games to watch while I exercise, along with Michigan and Lions games. I really need to amp up my exercising to get through them all, lol.


December 5th, 2017 at 1:15 PM ^

To me basketball will always be a finesse sport. One of the reasons i went from really liking the nba to hating the nba then back to now kind of liking it is due to the early 90’s through 2007/8 defensive style of play. The 90’s has some of the outright ugliest games I have ever seen. Scores that wouldn’t get past 80 in some games. It was abysmal to watch. I’m a pacer fan and our best teams played the same ball they the Knicks and pistons and the bulls played. It was effective strategically but made for some really ugly basketball.


December 5th, 2017 at 2:33 PM ^

Do yourself a favor and go down to the LCA and watch them play.  On most nights they are a very entertaining product. Drummond's off season turnaround has been remarkable.

Also try not to watch/form any opinions on any NBA team when they are on the back half of two games in two nights.