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NBA Ratings Tumble in First Year of $24 Billion Deal

NBA Ratings Tumble in First Year of $24 Billion Deal
Photo: By flickr user ReneS via Wikimedia Commons

It was not a good year for ESPN, TNT and NBA TV when it came to how many viewers watched NBA product in 2016-17.
NBA overall ratings across the three networks fell about 6 percent compared to 2015-16 and that is not good news for Disney’s ESPN or the Time Warner soon to be soon to be AT &T’s TNT. The two cable TV networks paid $24 billion for NBA cable TV rights for nine years. The NBA deal started with the 2016-17 season.  The NBA had a bad first half of the season on regional cable sports networks as ratings fell about 15 percent compared to the 2015-2016 season. There are less cable TV subscribers.

How have cord cutters impacted the league’s TV numbers? Remember these are not over the air TV ratings but cable TV and the cable TV industry has been losing millions of subscribers over the past few years and it is not just limited to ESPN. It is all across the board including sports and news networks because when you cut the cord, you are cutting a great many channels.

The good news is that the NBA product was steamed by more people in 2016-17. But the NBA has joined the NFL in the declining TV numbers.  The NFL was down 8 percent in 2016 in viewers when compared to 2015. No one knows why the ratings are down but the loss of subscribers is probably the main reason although players being rested on marquee NBA TV matches is being blamed.

Clearly there is a subscriber problem. ESPN has around 88 million subscribers but has lost about 12 million customers since 2011, ESPN2 may have slightly fewer subscribers and ESPNU has dropped to 69.2 million. TNT is losing subscribers. The regional networks are losing subscribers, none of which is good news for sports owners and players and the networks.

By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.


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