The ratings are in for this year’s NBA All-Star Game, and they come with quite the downturns. As per Jon Lewis at Sports Media Watch, this year’s edition marked by far the lowest ratings and viewership in ASG history. The game averaged a combined 2.2 rating and 4.59 million viewers across TNT (primary broadcast with Brian Anderson, Reggie Miller, and Candace Parker) and TBS (Inside The NBA alternate broadcast), the lowest rating and viewership in the game’s history (down 29 and 27 percent respectively from 2022). And Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge and the All-Star Saturday Night broadcasts also dropped:
NBA All-Star Game ratings, viewership *easily* the lowest ever.
— All-Star Saturday Night and Rising Stars also down to new lows
— Celebrity Game bucks trend of record-lows with an actual increase over last yearhttps://t.co/xvxxauztTO
— Sports Media Watch (@paulsen_smw) February 22, 2023
Of course, the previous lows in ratings and viewership were recent. The previous low rating was 3.1 (2021 and 2022), and the previous low viewership was 5.94 million (across TNT and TBS in 2021). Last year saw a slight uptick in viewership to around 6.25 million across TNT and TBS, which still wasn’t great historically.
This is also part of a wider decline for All-Star Game numbers across sports, and it comes amidst a lot of criticism for all-star games (NBA and otherwise) as a TV product. That’s already led to some major format changes, with some success. The NHL saw an increase this year, albeit from a previous record low in 2022. And in the NFL, while the Pro Bowl Games didn’t completely stop the ratings slide, they helped diminish its slope. (The Pro Bowl Skills Competition did not, though, and may need some tweaks.) However, the NBA has already tried a format change, going to team captains selecting reserves. That did produce good ratings for that draft (3.34 million, in the direct pregame for the game Sunday, and coming with some notable Inside The NBA banter), but it hasn’t stopped the ratings issues. (The draft was one of the few All-Star Weekend things that saw an uptick, but last year’s wasn’t really comparable, drawing 460,000 viewers during a regular TNT pregame show several days in advance. The other thing that saw an uptick was ESPN’s broadcast of the Celebrity Game Friday, which grew eight percent in viewership to 1.4 million viewers.)
In the grand scheme of things, 4.59 million viewers is still a solid audience. This was easily the second-most-watched sports event of the weekend (behind only the Daytona 500 on Fox, which averaged 8.18 million viewers earlier in the day Sunday). And this game was lacking some of the NBA’s top stars: Steph Curry missed the game entirely, and LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo exited early.
In addition to that, as Lewis notes, the NBA as a whole is doing well for TNT (their games are averaging 1.4 million viewers heading into the All-Star break, the highest number in four years) and beyond (an average of 1.6 million viewers overall, even with last year). So the All-Star slide isn’t necessarily a huge problem for TNT parent Warner Bros. Discovery, or for the league.
But, with NBA national contracts coming up after 2024-25, it is certainly notable that there’s a slide of this magnitude around one of the league’s marquee properties. And it will be interesting to see if that leads to more format changes.
[Sports Media Watch; photo of game MVP Jayson Tatum from Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports]