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The NBA Is Thriving

March 10, 2011

The NBA is enjoying great ratings as Sports Media Watch describes in one of its recent posts. I quote from one of yesterday’s posts on the site:

  • Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia is averaging a 1.5 rating for Sixers telecasts, according to a recent Philadelphia Daily News article, up 25% from last year (1.2). Postgame coverage on CSN Philadelphia is also up 20%. (Philadelphia Daily News)
  • Through 42 telecasts, TNT is averaging a 1.5 U.S. rating and 2.389 million viewers for NBA coverage, up 25% in ratings and 29% in viewership from last year (1.2, 1.852M, 41 telecasts), and up 36% in both measures from two years ago (1.1, 1.754M, 39 telecasts). The 2.389 million viewers is 27% above Turner’s current full-season record of 1.885 million, set in 1995-96. (Turner Sports)
  • ESPN earned a 1.5 U.S. rating and 2.307 million viewers for Sunday’s 9 PM ET Celtics/Bucks game, up 50% and 64%, respectively, from last year’s comparable 8 PM ET Wizards/Celtics matchup (1.0, 1.410M). Earlier in the night, the Knicks’ win over the Hawks drew a 1.3 and 1.945 million viewers. (TV By the Numbers)

If you visit the site and scroll down to read the posts, you’ll continue to see that the NBA is doing well. For example, a post from March 8 shows that ratings for Chicago Bulls games on CSN Chicago are up 66%. The NBA is in a healthy place in terms of fan engagement. People are watching games, streaming Blake Griffin dunks on YouTube, and buying jerseys. Thus, the Association must be careful not to lose fans in these next labor negotiations as they did when it locked out in the 1998-1999 season.

The negotiations will be interesting because the economic system in the NBA does not find owners as financially healthy as the economic system in the NFL. The NFL is bargaining over sharing billions of dollars, but the NBA will be bargaining about reducing losses. Regardless of how the ratings are in Chicago, Philadelphia, and on national television, the owners of small market teams that are losing money will call for reform, and there are enough of these owners to make negotiations very contentious and long. As we heard at the symposium last Saturday, the NBPA is a weak union and the owners will take advantage of players who need paychecks. Commissioner David Stern must walk a fine line between appeasing his owners and maintaining the healthy buzz and appeal that the NBA is enjoying today.

– Jason

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