Cover Image for NBA ratings drop: Why have NBA Bubble ratings declined ahead of the playoffs?

NBA ratings drop: Why have NBA Bubble ratings declined ahead of the playoffs?

Tanishk Thilakan
|Mon Aug 17 2020

NBA ratings continue to drop and here we look at some of the factors involved and can we expect them to be back up for the playoffs?

NBA ratings drop has created a stir in the sporting world. The league has been pretty vocal about its support to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement but has created problems for the league.

With the slogan of ‘Black Lives Matter’ painted on the courts and almost all players taking a knee during the national anthem, the league’s popularity has taken a hit with some of their viewers.

The league also allowed players to print a message on their jerseys instead of their names during the NBA campaign in Orlando. To make matters worse, US president Donald Trump regularly takes a dig at stars like LeBron James and the league as a whole and ends up putting the NBA under the scrutiny.

Why have NBA ratings declined?

Adam Silver and co. have done everything possible to provide fans with a normal NBA like viewing experience by introducing virtual fans and on court noises.

But, with player protests dominating the NBA scenes, several people might have tuned out. With Trump and his allies a bitter nemesis of the league, the NBA have lost a lot of viewers. The league’s fight against racism in the country might end up hurting them in many ways.

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The NBA has reported a 4% national rating decline from its pre-pandemic average. The NBA has been the most active league in America when it comes to fighting against racism and it might have contributed to its downfall. PGA TV, NASCAR races, NFL, NHL and baseball have all experienced increase in viewership during this period.

Another aspect of this drop can be credited to the lack of interest in the regular season of the league. The regular season is losing its significance and the approach of the Clippers this season is a massive example of this. The 82 regular season is a long drag for the viewers with no major consequences for most of the teams. The ratings-drop in the regular season has been a worrying trend for sometime and the league needs to come up with a plan to stop it.

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Will the ratings go up during the playoffs?

The ratings usually pick up during the playoffs and observe an upward trend till the NBA finals. The rivalries and superstars involved in the playoffs also tend to influence the ratings. When the Warriors faced the Cavs during the summers of 2016 and 2017 NBA finals, the ratings touched the sky. However, it dropped last season as a weakened Warriors faced the Raptors.

The league might expect its ratings to pick up during the playoffs but might still be less than the usual numbers. Some massive playoffs series like the Lakers-Clippers, Lakers-Bucks or Bucks-Celtics will surely help the league though.

The Lakers-Clippers game on the opening night of the seeding games witnessed an average viewership of 3.4 million which is quite higher than the other games in the bubble. The league can hope for its superstars to draw in the viewership as the season begins its playoffs.

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