There are Obvious and Alarming Reasons Why NBA Ratings Are Off to Such a Bad Start
About a month into the NBA season, the league and its broadcast partners are not bragging. The ratings for the season are off to rough start compared to last season's down year. As pointed out by Sports Media Watch, ratings for eight of the 10 TNT games have declined this season and, including ESPN's airings, nine games have already failed to reach one million viewers. That is compared to 19 all of last season.
Another season with declining ratings has been my prediction ever since the discussion for this season began. The most protected and praised league by the sports media suffers from a plethora of problems that aren't going away.
Most years there are only a select few teams that matter and have any national interest. This season, there are less than normal.
There is little-to-no intrigue in any team not based in Los Angeles. And it's becoming increasingly hard to care for, or to watch, the Clippers. The team's star, and the NBA's best player, Kawhi Leonard, is skipping at least one game during back-to-back sets to rest. It's 50-50 if he is even going to show up, which screams to the fans that he, the team, and the NBA don't care about the regular season. Now, the fans are starting to not care, either.
The regular season is an irrelevant display that is a waste of everyone's time. The outcomes don't matter. Over half of the league makes the playoffs, and many of the teams that make it in are not decent enough to compete. The players don't go full speed -- if they even play -- and several late games are decided on the free-throw line (Yawn). This includes the 26 or so teams that have no shot at winning a championship and are filled with players counting down the days until they can force their way to a new team. A method that is also a complication for the NBA.
As much fun as the free agency madness has been over the past two seasons, it has hurt the NBA. The off-court rumors have become more fun than the games. Two seasons ago, it was about LeBron's decision. Last season, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard rumors took over the conversation. That doesn't exist this season and is not guaranteed to come back anytime soon.
The troubling start of this season follows an NBA Finals that was down around 14 percent, according to Statista, in ratings, which followed a regular season that also recorded disappointing numbers.
These numbers are likely a shock to the readers. It's hard for them to fathom any issues with the NBA as the coverage is 95 percent the media telling its audience how great it is, and 5 percent them defending its abundance of issues. Last season, I brought to attention how most sports shows were ignoring last season's lack of interest, the same shows and personalities that built programing around the NFL's ratings issues in 2015 and 2016. So it's no surprise this year's mess isn't getting attention despite the NBA being talked about nearly every day on nearly every single ESPN and FS1 program.
The season is only a month in, and injuries to stars have made it even harder to watch, but it would be a tall task to convince anyone that bases their beliefs on facts that the league isn't in trouble. The current issues the league faces are not going away this season. Or next season when they will go up against the Presidential election. Sure, there will be defense and excuses, but like last season, none will be valid.