Just like NFL ratings last fall, NBA television viewership took a dive during the 2016-17 season, according to an analysis by Sports Business Journal.

The SBJ analysis, which looked at local ratings for 27 of the 30 NBA teams, found a 14 percent drop from the previous year. Twenty regional sports networks reportedly saw their ratings decline, including 15 that experienced double-digit decreases.

National television ratings were also down in 2016-17, suggesting a broader trend in NBA viewership.

SBJ posits several potential explanations for these drop offs. For one thing, much of the ratings decline came early in the NBA season, when games were competing with presidential election coverage on other cable networks. Competition with political programming was also a popular explanation for the NFL’s poor ratings.

Former CBS president Neil Pilson is quoted in the SBJ piece attributing the drop in ratings to poor performances from teams in the NBA’s biggest markets.

“The league is getting a large amount of national attention, with LeBron, Golden State and Russell Westbrook all national stories but what you still like to see are the major markets doing well and rating well,” Pilson said. “Chicago did not have an exciting team and the Knicks and the Lakers were dreadful, and that does have an impact. You also have to deal with the growth of unrated social and digital media deliveries. You have people now that don’t have to be at home to watch.”

That’s an interesting theory, but it doesn’t quite hold up to scrutiny. The Bulls, Knicks and Lakers were not much less interesting than they were a season ago. And the Cavaliers and Warriors both experienced double-digit ratings declines (though they still had the highest ratings in the league), so even the NBA’s most exciting teams are not immune to the trend.

The most persuasive explanation for the ratings decline is the most simple one: People don’t have to watch games on TV anymore. As a Spurs executive acknowledges in the SBJ story, fans can now stream games online or follow along on social media and still be part of the conversation.

NBA ratings might bounce back a little next year without competition from election hysteria, but this report looks like another data point suggesting regional sports networks may have already seen their best days.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

  • rwclwn

    sports ratings are down because athletes are overpaid entitled jerks and the jock sniffing sports media has become too political.

    • Justin Lehman

      also the lack of parity in this particular league is in your face. The worst thing might be the bad officiating, which is not only excruciatingly obvious, but it’s also forcefully accepted so much to the point you get a $25,000 fine for pointing out mistakes they make. The NBA is a superstar driven league and as much people don’t want to believe it, the NBA have to look out for their most important assets. Those important assets being certain athletes and team markets.

  • Realest760

    Nobody wants to see resting players I don’t even bother watching tnt cuz I know they are not playing

  • Jeff

    I think it was a combination of two things: the fact that just like the NFL players became political this season. That turns off a lot of people including me as we use sports as an escape. Secondly, players resting was also a factor as the national numbers were down as well.

  • Christopher Bates

    Let’s not forget that the current brand of basketball played in the NBA is boring, and that most people are going to tune out when only three or four teams have an actual chance to win the title.

  • bralinshan

    These NBA players are generally unlikeable thugs. They play a horrific brand of isolation basketball brought on by the AAU culture. The defense in the NBA is nonexistent. The NBA is going down the drain.

    • Justin Lehman

      what ever happened to fundamentals? and also I’m suprised Popovich hasn’t gone postal on the refs yet lol

      • EstablishmentDividingUs

        Popovichs’ UnAmerican left wing disdain for the President is helping to kill basketball.
        Boycott the racist NBA, period.

    • beastwork

      “generally unlikeable thugs” huh. Racist codewords, I see you. What exactly makes each player in the NBA generally a thug? In general, are NBA players more criminal than any other general American? And how do you know they’re unlikeable? How many NBA players have you actually met. More blanket statement nonsense from a blithering internet moron.

      • 7541west

        Wow another hater speaks up.

        • beastwork

          how does this make me a hater? i’m asking this key to explain his nonsense.

  • Drake Anderson

    30 to 25 million for the top players, $100 million salary cap for the top teams?

  • John Boy

    Who the hell watches NBA nowadays?

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  • 7541west

    The NCAA brand of basketball is great to watch……the NBA…..not so much.

  • Rocc E. Normyss

    Who watches nba anymore?

  • Bullets

    Bunch of tattoo covered thugs.

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