31 Comments

You’re not even mentioning how these numbers are being juiced by aggregating simulcasts. It’s quite notable with the NBA on Christmas Day where 1.7 of the 5 million people were watching on ESPN. It’s a little conspicuous that the ESPN altcast was getting 50% of the viewers the ‘main’ broadcast on network TV with the supposed best announcing team in the business. Then consider the opportunity cost, a wins-above-replacement metric, to understand how these broadcasts are gaining the marginal viewer. Judging from the ratings of meaningless Bowl games. you throw anything on ESPN around that time and it will rate >750K viewers. So, to play the hypothetical, what would have the NBA’s most watched game rated had it been broadcast exclusively on ABC as they had in the past? 4.5m? 4.25M? Same goes for the IST knockout games which benefited from the same tactic.

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I spent Christmas with a group of normie sports fans. At one point the topic of athletes flopping/diving/etc came up, and someone immediately said "Ugh, the NBA guys are THE WORST with that." The whole room agreed, spent a few minutes shitting on the NBA for that, and then proceeded to watch football for 10 hours. And even though I'm a bigger NBA fan than all of them, I couldn't argue their point, because they're right.

It boggles my mind that Silver doesn't realize this foul-baiting nonsense hurts the league.

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NBA is down because both hardcore and casual fans have realized that the regular season doesn’t really matter. I would consider myself a huge fan but I just can’t get up for any real regular season game unless there is some drama behind it. I will watch 90% of the playoffs though as it feels as if teams and players are giving max effort.

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Dec 28, 2023·edited Dec 28, 2023

The NBA's ratings decline is the same as everything else's. It has almost nothing to do with "wokeness," style of play, load management, etc. This is an issue of technology and viewing habits - the NBA's challenges are the same as cable, broadcast, streamers, MLB, movie theaters, etc. The NFL is the anomaly and it's a discredit to the discussion to act like they're the proverbial rabbit setting the pace for everyone else.

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Meanwhile the premier league is getting 2 million for big games and growing. (and at terrible game times)

Why do I bring it up? They are in the scarcity business (just 38 games) they market clubs vs players. (Like the NFL) and have the youth demo that the NBA like to tour.

Be worried NBA. Be worried .

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One more thought: the NBA would really benefit from 2 things the rest of the season:

1) the TWolves continuing to be good and having a long playoff rub. Anthony Edwards is the most charismatic young player in the NBA right now, and he doesn't (yet) have the issues Ja has. He can lift Minnesota the way Larry Johnson/Zo briefly lifted the Hornets to the height of coolness. Remember that period? The Hornets had the best jerseys and led the NBA in attendance, and were straight up cool. Trying to make the current Knicks or Heat or Suns cool is like trying to make "fetch" happen. How many years will it take before everyone realizes this?

2) The Bulls have to get good again. Holy fuck does the NBA miss the Chicago TV market. All those people freezing at home on Christmas day would be dying to watch the Bulls in a meaningful game.

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“I’m not sure how the NFL can find a way to make next year’s Wednesday Christmas work”

Have the teams playing on Thursday/Saturday play on Christmas Day so it would be a normal rest period of 4/6 days?

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I was looking at the NBA Christmas games between 1988 and 2000, what I would say is the "golden age" of NBA Christmas games. It was always a doubleheader in that era, until 2002-3. So the scarcity thing you always harp on? Check. And the matchups were always VERY specific. Set up based on last year's playoffs, and historical rivalries, and compelling storylines. It wasn't about big city franchises unless it made sense. It was Sacramento, and Indiana, and Utah, and Portland, if those were the big name teams in the moment. And it worked! Those games mattered so much, they sadly led to the oversaturation we see now. I'm a huge NBA fan and have strong nostalgia to that golden age, and even I thought the games this year were not super compelling. And there were too many! I honestly think the NBA dropped the ball here big time too. If they had kept it to an afternoon doubleheader with the right pairings, this could have been a huge success. Boston LA was a trash game and still did good ratings! The opportunity was there: lead with Lakers-Golden State, roll into Boston-Denver. That's your Christmas. Would have been huge ratings and everyone would be happy today, even with the NFL getting 3 excellent close games. Trying to force feed the starless Knicks and the boring Heat and Sixers and Suns and Mavs into it was torture on the viewers, even though Luka at least put on a show. The NBA is in that zone right now where the casuals and the general public have no idea who the stars are aside from Lebron and Curry. The young new guys just haven't popped yet, and maybe they never will. I don't think my mom and her friends will ever know who Jokic and Butler and Embiid and Giannis and Tatum are, they just don't transcend the NBA like that. At least not yet. If the NBA accepted defeat on the 5-header and kept it to 3 games, or even 2, I think they can back some public interest. And use Curry and Lebron to draw eyeballs to meet the next wave. And I'm NOT talking about Wembanyama and SGA. The next wave is Ant and Chet and Flagg. Figure out how to promote them, because that's your future. And next year, when obvious Christmas games are staring you in the face, don't run away from them! Just simply doing 2023 ECF and WCF rematches would have been great TV, and I bet Jimmy would have played against Boston. This overthinking is ruining everything.

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I think most of these numbers are BS. I don’t need a focus group or polling data to tell me that more people watched the Dolphins beat the Bears on Monday night than any group ever watched a regular season game. I also know that more people watched 2016 7 game Cavs/Warriors than any other game post Jordan. The NFL - right now - is just the more watchable product - and that is with the worst QB health in memory. It just looks better on TV. Plus, the NBA has amazing players - up and down rosters - but the ball movement and diversity of play has never been worse. It is 3s, layups, and “let’s head to the monitor!” They could do so much better with all these amazing players.

I think the NBA should quit trying to win the last war and just move their season to Jan through July. They would just need to schedule the playoffs away from the NFL draft.

Thank you ES for another solid read.

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Ok so is the nfl gonna put 3 games on a Wednesday next Christmas? Like sure they owned it this year and last, and they always were going to, this isn’t shocking, but if they really are spitefully trying to do this to mess with the nba then we should assume they will play 3 Wednesday games, and then 3 Thursday games, and then 3 Friday games the year after

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Clearly NFL is the most dominant sport in the US. Though I’m guessing these stats are based on US audiences only? Assuming that to be the case, I’d be interested to know what these numbers look like if you take into account international audiences. The reality is that basketball is popular all over the world, whereas American football isn’t. American football is a niche sport outside of the US and Canada. Yes, US audiences might not be tuning into NBA games the same way they do NFL, but I’d be interested to know what these figures look like if international audiences are factored in

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There are 8-9 teams jumbled teams jumbled up in the middle of the Western Conference. All are essentially using the same data-driven approach; all need to make a home run trade to become contenders. I have no idea who is going to win on any given night.

You'd think parity would be good for the NBA, as it keeps local markets engaged, but maybe its more effective to have clear tiers and more predictable storytelling and marketing.

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