There is no simple answer, no silver bullet that fixes the fact NBA ratings are down to start the season.
The problem is complex and mostly built around the way younger generations consume media (a situation that is not going away) and the competition in that marketplace. Add on top of that that NBA teams tell fans through their actions they don’t prioritize the regular season — what do you think the message of load management is (even if it’s the right thing to do for player’s health)? — and it’s not a shock to see ratings being down.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban talked about it with Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News.
Cuban: “We’ve got a challenge in that all of our games, until we start on ABC, are on cable. Which means if you cut the cord, you can’t see any of our games. That’s a challenge.
Q: Some of the reaction that I saw was that some read that as doom and gloom, but that’s not the impression I got from your comments.
Cuban: I don’t see that at all. It’s a challenge. It’s going to be hard to find the equilibrium, but that’s the innovators’ dilemma. Businesses go through that. The technology is changing. Streaming, who knew that it would be a big deal?
We are where we are. Kids, I forget the exact number, but the majority of homes with millennials and younger in the household, they don’t have traditional cable TV. And so the number of options for them to get our games is minimal and that’s going to hurt our ratings because other than MLS, we have the youngest viewing the league.
Q: So what is the workaround?
Cuban: That’s the thing we have to work out with our broadcast partners. Now, if they open it up for streaming, that makes life easier. That’s a big discussion for everybody, though.
It’s worth checking out the entire interview, Cuban talks about his feelings on Adam Silver’s proposals to reshape the regular season (like most around the league he’s not loving the mid-season tournament) and Kristaps Porzingis.
The games on ABC will help, and for casual fans it’s really Christmas when they start to focus more on the NBA (as football slows down). NBA ratings will pick up, and the playoffs are when the broadcast partners make most of their money back anyway.
However, the long-term issues are not going anywhere — for the NBA and all the major American sports — and we need better solutions than a tournament between Thanksgiving and Christmas.