With any lockout, there is bound to be backlash against the sport and fans vowing never to watch another game. With the frustration of intense negotiations and infuriating tactics used in the NBA Lockout, the Association didn’t do their fans any favor. The “millionaires vs billionaires” tag was an all too easy label for the negotiations and the apocalyptic language used by both sides endeared little support until the lockout was finally ended a few weeks ago. But then David Stern doubled down on his role as the villanious kingmaker of professional sports by pulling the competitive balance strings and deciding where Chris Paul was going to play basketball this year. All in all, you couldn’t blame NBA fans if they were turned away from the beginning of the season on Christmas Day.
However, in what can be nothing but encouraging news for the Association, ratings were up in four of the five Christmas Day games yesterday. The following numbers for each broadcast window come via the excellent Sports Media Watch…
12 ET: Knicks v Celtics – 4.1 rating, up 52% vs last year
2:30 ET: Heat v Mavericks – 5.6 rating, up 6% vs last year
5 ET: Bulls v Lakers – 6.4 rating, down 12% vs last year
8 ET: Thunder v Magic – 1.9 rating, up 36% vs last year
10:30 ET: Clippers v Warriors – 2.3 rating, up 77% vs last year
Those are all great numbers for the league considering the only game down from last year (Bulls v Lakers) was the third highest rating for a regular season game on ABC. Only Heat/Lakers last year on Christmas Day and the 2004 Shaq v Kobe matchup gained higher ratings. More great news for the NBA are the increased numbers on ESPN in primetime considering they were going up against Sunday Night Football, albeit not a very compelling Bears-Packers blowout. Chris Paul’s debut with the Clippers pulled in impressive numbers in the nightcap almost doubling last year’s rating.
Like the NFL Lockout, it doesn’t seem that the NBA Lockout caused any tangible amount of fans to turn away from the product because the season wasn’t lost. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if ratings were up throughout the course of the season with the compacted 66 game schedule and all the high profile teams and superstars that will be must see television. In spite of all their best efforts to prevent it, the league is still trending upwards… which is why the lockout was so frustrating in the first place. If we have more exciting finishes like this Derrick Rose game winner against the Lakers yesterday, those numbers will continue to improve.