NBA commissioner Adam Silver said LeBron James leaving the Eastern-time-zone Cavaliers for the Pacific-time-zone Lakers hurt TV ratings. Those Western Conference games just ended too late for many viewers back East.
This summer, Los Angeles gained even more star power – Anthony Davis on the Lakers, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the Clippers. The Lakers and Clippers are championship favorites. Many people all over the country want to watch those teams’ games.
So, the NBA is moving up tipoffs for nationally televised games.
•In an effort to present national television games to the largest possible audience, the NBA worked closely with its teams and domestic broadcast partners to schedule earlier start times for doubleheaders. This season, 12 of TNT’s 31 doubleheaders and 22 of ESPN’s 36 doubleheaders will tip off at 7:30/10 p.m. ET or 7/9:30 p.m. ET instead of 8/10:30 p.m. ET. The number of doubleheaders at 8 p.m./10:30 p.m. ET on the two networks has been reduced by a combined 42 percent from last season (57 in 2018-19 compared with 33 in 2019-20).
•TNT: The 8 p.m./10:30 p.m. ET starts for TNT’s Tuesday doubleheaders have been reduced from nine last season to two this season. Of the network’s 12 Tuesday doubleheaders this season, nine will begin at 7:30 p.m./10 p.m. ET and one will tip off at 7 p.m./9:30 p.m. ET.
•ESPN: There will be no 8 p.m./10:30 p.m. ET Wednesday doubleheaders on ESPN this season, down from 18 last season. Of the network’s 21 Wednesday doubleheaders this season, 15 are scheduled for 7:30 p.m./10 p.m. ET and six are set for 7 p.m./9:30 p.m. ET.
This is generally good for TV viewers and bad for attending fans.
Everyone has their own schedule. So, there’s no magic solution for everyone. But these earlier starts will make it tougher for many attending fans to get from work to games. On the other hand, it will be easier for more fans to watch on television.
The NBA makes more money selling a ticket than having a fan to watch on television. But there are more fans watching on television than in the arena. So, it’s a balancing act. Finding the right answer is difficult.
Whether you like this attempt probably depends on how you watch games – in person or on television.