For all of the positive talk about the NBA in recent weeks, there’s one definitive blight on their resume this season – the league’s performance on ABC. During the 2014-15 season, the NBA drew a 2.2 average rating and 3.6 million viewers over 15 broadcasts on ABC. That 2.2 rating is the the second-lowest for the Association on network TV over the past 20 seasons, beating just the 2006-07 year and tying the 2005-06 and 2007-08 seasons in the depths.
The 3.6 million average viewership was virtually identical (but a tick higher) than the 2013-14 average viewership, but is still the second-lowest viewed season since that disastrous 2006-07 season. For as exciting as the season was, the struggling network ratings and viewership totals are a bit concerning – that 2006-07 season also featured the lowest rated Playoffs and Finals ever on ABC. Of course, the Finals that year featured a pair of teams that could meet in the Finals once again – the Spurs and Cavaliers.
Only six of the 15 games this year only topped a 2.0 rating, which is *really* disturbing. But those six games could possibly mute concerns over another small market Spurs-Cavs Finals – one game was Spurs-Thunder on Christmas, while the other five games all involved the Cavs (facing off with the Heat, Thunder, Lakers, Rockets, and Bulls).
Maybe these broadcast ratings struggles were because the Lakers and Knicks were both terrible, turning off large markets that would normally tune in. Maybe the ratings were rough because the Clippers and Rockets, both playing in large markets, couldn’t break through into the national consciousness for whatever reason. Maybe the ratings slagged because the Heat and Bulls were missing their marquee stars, Dwayne Wade and Derrick Rose, for significant periods of the season.
Considering ABC (through ESPN) just re-upped with the NBA for an obscene amount of money, it’s not as if either side wants this relationship to continue to struggle. But they should both head back to the drawing table and try and figure out how to get these ratings up for the 2015-16 season.