One of the most surprising ratings wins for major sports networks in recent years has to be the rise in alternative semi-pro basketball tournaments. The Basketball Tournament has quickly risen from a fun idea into a hotly anticipated yearly event, garnering solid summer ratings for ESPN’s networks. Meanwhile, Fox Sports has the rights to the BIG3 3-on-3 basketball league and is coming off of their best ratings yet for the tournament’s championship game.
Fox Sports’ live broadcast of the BIG3 championship game on Fox reached an average of 1,004,000 viewers, per Nielsen Media Research, making it the most-watched BIG3 telecast to date. That number is 59 percent higher than last year’s average audience of 632,000 viewers. Among the local markets, Kansas City and Birmingham topped the list for interest in the BIG3 championship game. Memphis and Tulsa tied for third with a 2.2 household rating. The Power (Corey Maggette, Cuttino Mobley, Glen “Big Baby” Davis) defeated the 3-Headed Monsters (Rashard Lewis, Gary Payton, Reggie Evans) for the title.
Overall, the 2018 BIG3 season averaged 444,000 viewers on both FS1 and Fox, up 108 percent over last season (213,000). That’s great news for Fox Sports, who re-upped their deal with the league last year. After a fantastic start in 2017, the ratings on FS1 leveled off, but they still finished better than the previous year’s programming which was mainly UFC repeats. The growth that the broadcaster saw in 2018 means even more positive growth could be in the future for Ice Cube’s fledging league. The move to air games live instead of on tape delay was likely part of the reason for the rating boost as well.
FSI also expanded its coverage of BIG3 content this season by broadcasting the league’s draft in April. A yearly influx of former NBA players with name recognition is a solid way to ensure that audiences come into most games with a basic awareness of at least a couple players involved.
As ratings and attendance numbers keep growing for this league, and summer basketball leagues in general, it looks like the big networks have found something to hang their hat on each July and August.