Meet the NBA’s biggest local draws, same as the league’s biggest local draws from a year ago. Following the NBA’s All-Star Weekend this past weekend, Sports Business Journal has analyzed the league’s local ratings and revealed that, just like last season, the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs are by far the league’s highest-rated teams at the local level.
All four of those teams have also seen their ratings rise locally this year, no small feat given their hefty local viewership. The Warriors lead the pack with an 8.87 rating this season, up 3% from last year. The Cavs are up 15% this year to an 8.21 rating, while the Thunder checked in at a 7.01, up 13% from the 2016-17 season, and the Spurs are up 26% to a 6.45 local rating this season. The team that checked in behind those four in the local viewership rankings is the Boston Celtics, with a 3.65 rating and a league-best 82% increase from last season.
The Wizards and Timberwolves, each sitting in the four-seed of their respective conferences, are also up big this year, with Wizards viewership increasing by 70% on NBC Sports Washington and T-Wolves viewership jumping by 66% on Fox Sports North.
As usual with these ratings analyses from SBJ, the Canadian markets (in this case, just the Toronto Raptors) aren’t included. The ratings data for Utah and Memphis was also not available.
Overall, the league is up 7% locally in addition to an impressive 15% jump on national platforms (ESPN, ABC, TNT, NBA TV) this year.
However, not all of the league’s teams are up this year. Ten teams are down, including the Hawks, Suns, and Clippers, all down over 40% during disappointing seasons in both Atlanta and Phoenix. Those three teams all rank in the league’s bottom six in average local viewership, but none have sunk to the level of the Brooklyn Nets, drawing an average rating of just 0.42 this year, the worst mark in the league. But despite sitting at just 19-40, Nets local ratings are up 9% on YES this season. Another team in the league’s bottom six in viewership, the Denver Nuggets, are also up this year, creeping up 8% on Altitude to a 0.64 average rating.
All in all, this is good news for the NBA and most of its teams. If fans are tuning in for both their local team and the featured national games, the league seems poised for a strong postseason – even though ESPN writers and league GMs nearly unanimously picked the Warriors to win the title before the season started.