What the Huge Drop in NBA Viewers Tells Us

CutDownTheNet

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I heard there might be up to 200 layoffs at ESPN. Which is owned by Disney, which already had to layoff 20,000.

One thing that scares me is that, right now, we need more TV coverage (not less) to cover NCAA sports that can't have spectators, such as Big-Ten and more specifically the Gophers.
 

coolhandgopher

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I can provide a personal perspective of this year's NBA playoffs, since I watched the games or part of the games when possible. Over the past ten years or so, I've paid more notice to the NBA because it's a sport that's consistently broadcast throughout the places I've lived while overseas. As an overall product, the NBA's in pretty good shape, but there was a number of factors that contributed to poor ratings this season.

It was a disorientating experience this year-I'm not used to watching the games on weekday afternoons and without the true arena experience, things felt off from the start. The long break brought on by COVID-19 didn't help-when they came back to the bubble, I was confused by the regular season games tacked on before the playoffs started and it caused me to take a bit of time to get into the playoffs.

The NBA playoffs have also traditionally held a place on the calendar and TV schedule that felt much different to me this year. Basketball ending in early summer feels natural and without the competition from other sports on the calendar.

Also affecting this year's product was the elimination of marquee teams/players earlier than expected-Milwaukee and the Clippers, and the teams that replaced them are compelling, but not yet household names for casual fans.

Finally, when the Finals began with a blowout win by the Lakers and injuries to two of Miami's starters that looked like it could keep them out of the playoffs, well, that certainly didn't help matters. And again, as valiant an effort that was put forth by Jimmy Butler and his Heat teammates, they are not headliners. Not only did the likes of Giannis A., Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and Damian Lillard leave the playoffs early, but other superstars like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson weren't around at all. There was a definite lack of star power, outside of the Lakers, this postseason.
 

Bayfieldgopher

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Wut??

Fifty-six percent???

Lol.
Gallup: "Regardless of whom they personally support, 56% of Americans expect Trump to prevail over Biden in the November election, while 40% think Biden will win."

My error. Thanks for bringing this up as I should have said the above.
 

coolhandgopher

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Nah, gotta go back before that.;)

Jordan and Pippen got a free ride to the Finals for years. Hell, the year they played without Jordan they won 55 but lost in the 2nd Round of the playoffs. Same place they ended when Jordan came back at the end of the next season.

Nope, probable have to go back to the 80's and mid- 90's when Houston, Lakers, Celtics and Philly all had good to great teams and hardly anybody got cakewalk to the Finals.
It's a great point you brought up Iceland-when I was watching The Last Dance, I was reminded of the slog that many of the games from that era were like. Take a look at the scores from the mid to late '90s NBA Finals-rarely cracking 100 points with many games ending in the range of 70-90 points.

Now the '80s. . .that was fantastic, not only the teams you referenced above, but teams that never sniffed the Finals that were comprised of great talent-the Bucks, Mavericks, Nuggets, Cavaliers, Hawks, and of course the "Bad Boys" from Detroit, who I hated, but damn, were they compelling. That's the period when I really enjoyed watching Jordan and the Bulls, as they were coming up and having to fight through the Celtics and Pistons.

By the time of their second three-peat, I had lost a great deal of interest. As I was watching the Last Dance, I thought they were like Seinfeld for me-the early years were so exciting and energizing, but towards the end of their run (or in Seinfeld speak, after Larry David departed), I still watched, there were still moments of brilliance, but it didn't have the same spark as the early years.
 

cjbfbp

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Personally, I'm not much of an NBA fan, but would generally watch at least some of the Finals. I watched zero this year due to NFL/MLB being on at the same time and not much caring if LeBron got yet another title.
I am an NBA fan and I barely watched the playoffs. I'm not sure why but maybe the Lakers and Lebron winning another title didn't excite me either. I have tremendous respect for Lebron as an athlete and competitor but I'm ready for new heroes.
 

Iceland12

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It's a great point you brought up Iceland-when I was watching The Last Dance, I was reminded of the slog that many of the games from that era were like. Take a look at the scores from the mid to late '90s NBA Finals-rarely cracking 100 points with many games ending in the range of 70-90 points.

Now the '80s. . .that was fantastic, not only the teams you referenced above, but teams that never sniffed the Finals that were comprised of great talent-the Bucks, Mavericks, Nuggets, Cavaliers, Hawks, and of course the "Bad Boys" from Detroit, who I hated, but damn, were they compelling. That's the period when I really enjoyed watching Jordan and the Bulls, as they were coming up and having to fight through the Celtics and Pistons.

By the time of their second three-peat, I had lost a great deal of interest. As I was watching the Last Dance, I thought they were like Seinfeld for me-the early years were so exciting and energizing, but towards the end of their run (or in Seinfeld speak, after Larry David departed), I still watched, there were still moments of brilliance, but it didn't have the same spark as the early years.
Thanks for the reminder about the Pistons. Gonna go and edit them in.

Some people love the eras where you "know" who's gonna win. Yankees, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, even though Palmer and Player gave him a run. Laker and Celtic fans thru the years. Even the Patriots in the NFL.

Personally always wanted 5-6 different teams that could have a realistic shot at it.
 

Texas-Gopher

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They use code language like several righties here, but the meaning is very clear. The protests and black players support of them made them refuse to watch any sports, listen to kfan ect ect. I just laugh at them and say whatever makes you happy....
Disagreeing with lefty opinions means "white people hate uppity blacks". You've gone full tool.
 

Ogee Oglethorpe

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I am an NBA fan and I barely watched the playoffs. I'm not sure why but maybe the Lakers and Lebron winning another title didn't excite me either. I have tremendous respect for Lebron as an athlete and competitor but I'm ready for new heroes.
I've seen plenty of discussion that LeBron is driving people away from the NBA as a product. I think there's something to that.

You make an interesting comment about not being excited about LeBron winning another title. I heard some crazy statistic the other day on the radio; something like 5M people watched this year's NBA Finals and there was around 35M that watched Michael Jordan's last run. Say what you want about the time of year and competing with other sports but that is an incredibly dramatic drop. LeBron is supposed to be the league's biggest star, which should bring more viewers. Clearly that is not happening.

Last year there was a frickin' Canadian team in the Finals, which should have been a death blow, and I think there were still around 14M people that watched.

Another thing I thought was odd, but I don't think it got a lot of publicity; LeBron bitching this year about the MVP voting and that he didn't get voted MVP, didn't get more votes, etc. So much for humility I guess.
 

golfing18now

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I think it is foolish to pretend the messaging hasn't had an effect on the numbers. Sports shut down overnight back in March and all of us sports fans were forced to find other things to do with our time. Unfortunately the lockdowns were then followed up by the Floyd incident and a subsequent wave of wokeness that frankly went too far. For months we have now heard how inherently racist we all are and this bizarre need to apologize for your race. I think many of us were looking forward to a diversion from politics and social issues without getting pounded with the same messages. That hasn't happened in many cases. Although there certainly are other factors, I think some people have gotten sick of the messaging and haven't taken the time to try to pick and choose their viewership.
 

Spoofin

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You do realize that the NBA playoffs typically occur through May and June, exclusively in the evenings or weekends, when there's no football and baseball isn't halfway through their season?
Yep. My post was about the KY Derby, but thanks for the info.
 

Spoofin

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That's a fair point but it along with the odd seasons for the NHL, NBA and other sports were addresses in that same post/article:

  1. There’s a certain level of cannibalization on the calendar. As an example, Monday's Game 1 of the Rays-Yankees AL Division Series had 2.3 million viewers on TBS, which was one-third less than a similar time slot on TBS last year. Also a year ago, the baseball game was going up against a "Monday Night Football" broadcast, but this week's Rays-Yankees matchup was competing against two NFL games because one had been moved from Sunday due to a COVID-19 outbreak
  2. It’s not part of our natural cycle to be watching sports on weekday afternoons or NBA Finals games in October or Triple Crown races on a college football Saturday. “We get used to watching certain things or having particular sports be part of our lives at certain times of the year,” said Dennis Deninger, a former ESPN production executive, who is now a professor in sports communications at Syracuse University’s Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics. “If you move sports from their natural positions to places that they’re unfamiliar, they’re competing with sports that are traditionally seen in those time periods and everyone suffers a little bit.”
The main point I made was that horse racing isn't "down" this year - just because the # of people watching the KY Derby was down.

There are factors affecting all sports. No doubt. The NBA's approach to social injustice is impacting them too - IMO.
 

scools12

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I don’t watch much NBA to begin with because I don’t like the product.

However, I would spend more time on the NBA like most casual NBA fans during the playoffs. This year I did not watch one minute of the NBA bubble tourney. So I would say yes the NBA going full frontal with the social justice messaging has hurt their viewership.

Adam Silver has said the social justice messaging won’t be as noticeable next season. The NBA is fully aware they took a hit because of it.
 
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cjbfbp

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I've seen plenty of discussion that LeBron is driving people away from the NBA as a product. I think there's something to that.

You make an interesting comment about not being excited about LeBron winning another title. I heard some crazy statistic the other day on the radio; something like 5M people watched this year's NBA Finals and there was around 35M that watched Michael Jordan's last run. Say what you want about the time of year and competing with other sports but that is an incredibly dramatic drop. LeBron is supposed to be the league's biggest star, which should bring more viewers. Clearly that is not happening.

Last year there was a frickin' Canadian team in the Finals, which should have been a death blow, and I think there were still around 14M people that watched.

Another thing I thought was odd, but I don't think it got a lot of publicity; LeBron bitching this year about the MVP voting and that he didn't get voted MVP, didn't get more votes, etc. So much for humility I guess.
Lebron clearly has been one of the best players in NBA history but we've been watching Lebron for 17 years now and he has done as much as he can do in the league. I'd rather watch teams with some exceptional younger players like Luka Doncic. One drawback of the NBA is there is too much hype on its established top stars and not enough on emerging teams.

That Canadian team (loaded with American stars like Kawhi Leonard) was pretty damn good. I don't have a problem with a Canadian team winning the championship especially if they haven't won one before (the NBA isn't great with spreading the championships around). After all, the Toronto Blue Jays won 2 World Series.
 

Iceland12

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The main point I made was that horse racing isn't "down" this year - just because the # of people watching the KY Derby was down.

There are factors affecting all sports. No doubt. The NBA's approach to social injustice is impacting them too - IMO.
Gonna leave horse racing in there because network numbers are what this is all about.

The Belmont Stakes was down by 35%. Looks like that including streaming services too. Can't find the Preakness numbers

As for the NBA stand hurting them yes it is. Said the same thing in a couple of earlier posts in this thread. Just that it's ridiculous to think that it's the only reason, there aren't other factors or that other sports numbers are down too.

"Not disputing that. Would be idiotic to do that."

"The NBA "social justice" response had to drive away some viewers, but that doesn't address golf, HNL, tennis and Horse racing numbers also going down."
 

jamiche

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It's a great point you brought up Iceland-when I was watching The Last Dance, I was reminded of the slog that many of the games from that era were like. Take a look at the scores from the mid to late '90s NBA Finals-rarely cracking 100 points with many games ending in the range of 70-90 points.

Now the '80s. . .that was fantastic, not only the teams you referenced above, but teams that never sniffed the Finals that were comprised of great talent-the Bucks, Mavericks, Nuggets, Cavaliers, Hawks, and of course the "Bad Boys" from Detroit, who I hated, but damn, were they compelling. That's the period when I really enjoyed watching Jordan and the Bulls, as they were coming up and having to fight through the Celtics and Pistons.

By the time of their second three-peat, I had lost a great deal of interest. As I was watching the Last Dance, I thought they were like Seinfeld for me-the early years were so exciting and energizing, but towards the end of their run (or in Seinfeld speak, after Larry David departed), I still watched, there were still moments of brilliance, but it didn't have the same spark as the early years.
I thought the quality of play in the playoffs this year was outstanding--better than I've seen in a long time. I think it was because the players had four months off, so they were fresh. However, I couldn't get used to no fans in the stands. I'm an NBA junkie but it took me a while to get engaged because there was something missing from the experience. I think that's a big part of the reason that viewership is down across all of professional sports. TV studio sports is way better than no sports, but it's not close to the real thing. My guess is that we are two years away from packed stadiums.
 

Iceland12

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Lebron clearly has been one of the best players in NBA history but we've been watching Lebron for 17 years now and he has done as much as he can do in the league. I'd rather watch teams with some exceptional younger players like Luka Doncic. One drawback of the NBA is there is too much hype on its established top stars and not enough on emerging teams.

That Canadian team (loaded with American stars like Kawhi Leonard) was pretty damn good. I don't have a problem with a Canadian team winning the championship especially if they haven't won one before (the NBA isn't great with spreading the championships around). After all, the Toronto Blue Jays won 2 World Series.
Good points. Shouldn't ignore that the NBA Final's Game 6 drew 11.5 million. Or that it was up against the NFL and that Sunday Night Football game drew 15.1 viewers.

The match-up and who won escapes me....;)
 

Spoofin

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Gonna leave horse racing in there because network numbers are what this is all about.

The Belmont Stakes was down by 35%. Looks like that including streaming services too. Can't find the Preakness numbers

As for the NBA stand hurting them yes it is. Said the same thing in a couple of earlier posts in this thread. Just that it's ridiculous to think that it's the only reason, there aren't other factors or that other sports numbers are down too.

"Not disputing that. Would be idiotic to do that."

"The NBA "social justice" response had to drive away some viewers, but that doesn't address golf, HNL, tennis and Horse racing numbers also going down."
A) I never said it was the only thing affecting the NBA. In fact, I said it wasn't the only thing. I said it was dumb to say it was having no effect - which Minny did.

B) You are dead wrong on horse racing. Horse racing has had a stellar year. Network numbers may be "what it is all about" for sports like football, basketball, etc., but you are fooling yourself if you think that is what matters for horse racing. Handle is what it is all about - what it is ONLY about. The amount bet on horse racing has increased substantially this year. TVG viewership (i.e. betters) was up 40% this Spring. They benefited from all other sports being shut-down. This isn't even debateable.
 

Angry

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Nah, gotta go back before that.;)

Jordan and Pippen got a free ride to the Finals for years. Hell, the year they played without Jordan they won 55 but lost in the 2nd Round of the playoffs. Same place they ended when Jordan came back at the end of the next season.

Nope, probable have to go back to the 80's and mid- 90's when Houston, Lakers, Celtics, Pistons and Philly all had good to great teams and hardly anybody got cakewalk to the Finals.
I can agree with that. They also stopped calling traveling not long after that.
 

Livingat45north

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Alternatively, you could provide some evidence that NBA is losing viewers outside of a one-time, pandemic related scheduling change
They obviously can't be losing viewers at all though, you just told us "the NBA has literally never been more popular" and your posts are always factual and true... :unsure:
 

oak_street1981

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I think it all comes down to the core audience does not like being called racists, and being subjected to radical identity politics and critical race theory bullsht from guys that live in 5M houses in Malibu.

It gets even worse when smart guys like Mark Cuban, Steve Kerr, and Pop try to go nuclear on America being so racist and remain silent on China hauling people to concentration camps on trains in a very Nazi like manner. Kissing China's ass is a very bad move, and if we are lucky, this will all stop after 11/3.
 

mnsportsgeek

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Part of me wonders if sports TV ratings ever fully recover to pre-covid times. I'm curious to see how many people have come to the realization that sports don't need to consume their lives, and don't feel compelled to watch as much as they did before.
 

cjbfbp

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Part of me wonders if sports TV ratings ever fully recover to pre-covid times. I'm curious to see how many people have come to the realization that sports don't need to consume their lives, and don't feel compelled to watch as much as they did before.
Good questions. I used to look to see what sports were on each night of the week. During the long absence, there was no point in doing that so I began to look much more at other programming (like Netflix series) and often got caught up in them about as much as I would have gotten caught up in sports. To some degree, the sports habit was broken. I'm watching college football now but I'm more selective. Typically watch only one game a week but I do pay more attention to that one game than I normally paid to non-Big 10 games in the recent past.
 

coolhandgopher

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Part of me wonders if sports TV ratings ever fully recover to pre-covid times. I'm curious to see how many people have come to the realization that sports don't need to consume their lives, and don't feel compelled to watch as much as they did before.
This. Again, I'm providing a very singular view with this statement, but when I moved overseas about 10 years ago, my live sports viewing really dried up-college basketball & football aren't on TV whatsoever, and the Big 3 of NBA, NFL, and MLB has been hit or miss over the years. Even while things have improved immensely, for instance, I'm not able to watch NFL Thursday night games and on Sundays, it's Red Zone TV exclusively until the Sunday night game.

In the beginning, it was a tough adjustment-much of my TV entertainment had been the Saturday slate of college football games, Big Monday college basketball, Thursday & Friday NBA games, etc. etc. But then. . .I adjusted really quickly-between the immediacy of websites to give me scores and live play-by-play and being able to bring up just about any highlight rather quickly, I make do. I tried the NFL package for awhile, but once it exited my life as "the thing that I do on this day/time" it's been rather freeing. Sure, I miss watching entire games and enjoying the ebb and flow, but not as much as I thought I would. And, as people have discovered, it's rather freeing too.
 

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Lebron clearly has been one of the best players in NBA history but we've been watching Lebron for 17 years now and he has done as much as he can do in the league. I'd rather watch teams with some exceptional younger players like Luka Doncic. One drawback of the NBA is there is too much hype on its established top stars and not enough on emerging teams.

That Canadian team (loaded with American stars like Kawhi Leonard) was pretty damn good. I don't have a problem with a Canadian team winning the championship especially if they haven't won one before (the NBA isn't great with spreading the championships around). After all, the Toronto Blue Jays won 2 World Series.
I was rooting for Toronto all season that year. Great team with likable players. Same with those Blue Jays teams.
 

diehard

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People are slowly starting to realize that Lebron and Colin are de facto slave holders and not "radical justice" warriors. Slave hilders on the Nike Plantation. Making millions off Nike shoe contracts when the shoes are made at slave labor rates in China. You know, the place that gave us the Chinese Flu. Anyone attaching their name to anything justice are phony and ignorant.
 

chri1673

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Part of me wonders if sports TV ratings ever fully recover to pre-covid times. I'm curious to see how many people have come to the realization that sports don't need to consume their lives, and don't feel compelled to watch as much as they did before.
Was going to post something similar to this. Ill add my anecdotal summary to the list.

Used to watch the NBA pretty much nightly and i maybe watched 6 or 7 quarters of the finals. Think there are multiple factors for why I tuned out. If i had to rank them i would put them in the following order:
  1. Realized that i didn't really miss it when it was gone, more important and fulfilling ways to spend my time. (see #2) Unlike the absolute devastation of the cancellation of March madness that i look forward to and take time off work for every year.
  2. Added a second child to the family 4 months ago greatly reduces free time.
  3. Hanging out with friends less due to covid, most of the time we would turn some sort of sporting event on in the background.
  4. Draftkings, I used to make lineups almost daily (with moderate success), NBA game times didnt allow for proper research and lineup construction. Therefore not checking in on the action at night seeing how my lineups were doing.
  5. Wolves weren't part of the bubble, Golden state had been my other team i liked to watch since Curry has been there. Dont care for Lebron, seemed inevitable that the Lakers were going to win it this year.
  6. Dont care for the NBA's stance or lack there of on China and then trying to point out everything that is wrong with America. I could also see how some of the activism would turn off the casual fan.
Similar reasoning for not watching almost any baseball this year and less NFL than in the past as well.
With that said Gopher football games will be a standing family events this year and gopher basketball games will be either join me or do not bother me time this year.
 

howeda7

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Part of me wonders if sports TV ratings ever fully recover to pre-covid times. I'm curious to see how many people have come to the realization that sports don't need to consume their lives, and don't feel compelled to watch as much as they did before.
Ever is a long time, but sports had been somewhat immune to the erosion of TV ratings over the past 20 years. This may have erased that immunity. For me personally, it seemed awful at first, especially March Madness and MLB Opening Day getting cancelled, two of my favorite sports events. But after awhile I didn't miss it that much. Also, even after watching most Twins games, and a bunch of NFL, the empty stadiums still feel off. I think that has some impact on casual fans tuning in.
 

Spoofin

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Was going to post something similar to this. Ill add my anecdotal summary to the list.

Used to watch the NBA pretty much nightly and i maybe watched 6 or 7 quarters of the finals. Think there are multiple factors for why I tuned out. If i had to rank them i would put them in the following order:
  1. Realized that i didn't really miss it when it was gone, more important and fulfilling ways to spend my time. (see #2) Unlike the absolute devastation of the cancellation of March madness that i look forward to and take time off work for every year.
  2. Added a second child to the family 4 months ago greatly reduces free time.
  3. Hanging out with friends less due to covid, most of the time we would turn some sort of sporting event on in the background.
  4. Draftkings, I used to make lineups almost daily (with moderate success), NBA game times didnt allow for proper research and lineup construction. Therefore not checking in on the action at night seeing how my lineups were doing.
  5. Wolves weren't part of the bubble, Golden state had been my other team i liked to watch since Curry has been there. Dont care for Lebron, seemed inevitable that the Lakers were going to win it this year.
  6. Dont care for the NBA's stance or lack there of on China and then trying to point out everything that is wrong with America. I could also see how some of the activism would turn off the casual fan.
Similar reasoning for not watching almost any baseball this year and less NFL than in the past as well.
With that said Gopher football games will be a standing family events this year and gopher basketball games will be either join me or do not bother me time this year.
Congrats!
 
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