The NBA, for as popular as it is, has a major problem: no one watches early. This is evident in the decline of ratings to start the season. Nationally televised games are down 23% on TNT and 20% on ESPN. But why?
The NBA signed a nine-year, $24 billion dollar contract with ESPN and TNT. Since then, there have been a few major factors that play into the decline of nationally televised NBA games this season. All of which are a problem for the NBA moving forward.
To start, load management has taken over the NBA. Star players have made it evident that regular season games aren’t as important. The media and general fanbase can be to blame for this. In arguments and conversation, those groups base a player’s entire legacy off the month of June. If the two main groups that interact with a sport don’t take the early months of that sport seriously, then why would the athlete? Luckily for NBA fans, stars like LeBron James have vowed to play as many games as long as they’re healthy.
Speaking of health, injuries to marketable players are forcing marquee teams with many nationally televised games to court below average teams. The Golden State Warriors were a marketing powerhouse for the last five years. With Steph Curry and Klay Thompson hurt, that entire market is watching a team lead by rookie Eric Paschall. Other notable injuries are to Kevin Durant, the two-time finals MVP, and to rookie Zion Williamson, the league’s shiny new toy.
The NBA nationally televised schedule is garbage too. Arguably five of the top 10 players in the league play on the West Coast. If a fan lives in any other region, they have to stay up well past midnight to see those stars play. Sometimes the late game doesn’t start until 9:30 p.m.
The NBA needs to figure out a proper way to deal with load management, while protecting the long-term health of the players. In the meantime, fans and media need to quit being fixated on only using rings as a way to value a players career.