Local ratings for 27 of the NBA’s 30 teams (with the Utah Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies, and Toronto Raptors not included) are in at the league’s All-Star Break, and the news is not very good for the Association.
According to the ratings data compiled by the Sports Business Journal, those 27 teams are down 13% on their local RSNs, with 14 of the 27 experiencing declines in viewership. This news follows a similar trend to the national landscape, where ratings have dropped by 12%, from 10% on ESPN to to 13% on TNT and 16% on ABC.
The local story for the NBA isn’t encouraging. The Golden State Warriors, who have dominated the NBA’s local ratings for the last few years, saw their ratings decline by a staggering 66% on NBC Sports Bay Area. That’s the second-largest decline in the league (behind only the Denver Nuggets, down 72% on Altitude, which is beset by carriage issues), and has also knocked the Dubs out of the league’s top five overall. No team is averaging even a 4.00 rating in their local market, and just seven (Spurs, Bucks, 76ers, Thunder, Lakers, Blazers, Celtics) have hit 3.00. 11 teams can’t even get a 1.00 rating locally, including both New York teams (0.85 for the Knicks on MSG and 0.45, the league’s third-lowest mark, for the Nets on YES) and the Clippers (whose 86% rise to a 0.97 on Fox Sports Prime Ticket is the league’s highest local increase).
This isn’t good news for the NBA (duh and/or hello), and it continues a local trend we’ve been covering for years now. Last season, local ratings dropped by 4%, erasing a 3% gain from the 2017-18 season. In 2016-17, local ratings fell by a staggering 14%. A season earlier, the Warriors, Cavaliers, and Spurs all drew at least an 8.00 average local rating. Only the Spurs (as mentioned earlier) are above 3.00 today. That’s not good!
If there’s a bright side to this data for the NBA, it’s that much of that huge decline was spurred by a handful of teams (seven teams were down at least 40%, and only three were up by the same percentage), and if those teams can stem their declines, local viewership could stabilize or increase. But given the overall local ratings trend of the last few years, the NBA should probably huddle up with its teams and reps from local RSNs and figure out how to stem the declines going forward.