The conventional wisdom goes that casual NBA fans — and there are a lot of them — don’t really pay attention until Christmas (and not seriously until after the Super Bowl).
Based on results so far in this lockout-shortened season, that seems about right. The NBA wiped out everything before Christmas and the league’s attendance and television viewship are up this season.
Here are the numbers, via Henry Abbott at TrueHoop.
The first 325 games of this NBA season averaged attendance of 17,094. That’s better than 89 percent of capacity, and a hair better than the first 325 games of last season, which averaged 17,057. …
• ABC has had just three games, so it’s hard to say anything conclusive, but the audience is up five percent compared to a year ago.
• ESPN viewership is up 23 percent.
• TNT viewership is up 50 percent.
• NBA TV viewership is up an insane 66 percent.
• NBA on regional cable sports networks are up 12 percent.
• Local over-the-airwaves broadcasts are up 36 percent.
Whew. I think we were all worried about those poor owners and if they’d be able to make their money back after all those concessions they had to give up during the lockout. Would they have enough money to put Foie Gras on their plate? Now we can all rest easy knowing they can sleep on ever-larger piles of money.
(Yes, I know that television ratings do not impact the teams’ bottom line immediately, but this is a sign of future larger broadcast rights deals. It also is a sign they may get more for sponsorships and other short term boosts because the fans came back.)
Apparently you do not hold a grudge.
It’s early and the schedule was front loaded with some compelling matchups, but so far television ratings and attendance numbers are up around the NBA. Lockout? What lockout?
The Los Angeles Times has the details.
The five Christmas Day openers produced healthy ratings on TNT, ABC and ESPN, as ABC drew 11 million viewers for the Lakers-Chicago Bulls game, its third-largest NBA audience ever. TNT’s average of 5.9 million viewers for the Boston Celtics-New York Knicks game made that the most-viewed NBA Christmas Day game on cable.
In addition, 25 of the first 32 games were sellouts, up from 19 of the first 32 last season. Chris Granger, the NBA’s executive vice president for team marketing and business operations, said fan-friendly initiatives helped teams play to 99.2% of capacity over the first 32 games, up from 90.3% for the full 2010-11 season.
Part of the reasons those games are selling is ticket discounts and other promotions to get people in the door. And the Christmas ratings were up because those were all compelling matchups.
But the NBA seems not to have lost its momentum after the NBA lockout. We’ll see how it builds through the season and into the playoffs, but more than one casual NBA fan has told me “they should start on Christmas every year.” So far, there seems to be no real backlash from the lockout.
America loves some good schadenfreude.
Miami Heat and LeBron James were on the brink of being knocked out and the nation wanted to watch, which is why the television ratings for Game 6 were the highest for a Game 6 in 11 years (the first of the Lakers three-pete titles with Shaq and Kobe).
(Look, I’d love to think America tuned in to watch the smart and efficient basketball of the Mavericks, that they finally get how special Dirk Nowitzki is, but frankly I don’t have that much faith in the American public. These are the same people who buy shape up shoes and watch the Kardashians.)
Game 6 generated a 15 rating (meaning about 15 percent of all television in the nation were tuned to the game), which is up from the 12.3 last year when traditional powerhouses (and larger television markets) Los Angeles and Boston were going at it. The 15 was the highest of any finals game this season and any of he first six from last season (Game 7 last year drew an 18.3).
That game caps off a playoffs and full regular season that saw ratings in the league up, saw interest in the league increase. There is a real momentum. It’s the one reason to hope the lockout gets solved before games are lost — that would kill everything that has been built. Both sides give lip service to that idea, but we’ll see what happens when the negotiations face deadlines.