The NBA – on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic – is reportedly motivated to finish the current season. It’s easy to envision that pushing the playoffs into August. At that point, the league can’t simply turn around and immediately play another season, which could push the start of next season into December.
Could the NBA permanently shift its calendar, continuing to start in December and end in late summer?
NBA commissioner Adam Silver on ESPN:
Possibly. Those are things we’re always talking about – whether they’re executives at your company, at ESPN, or at Warner media, together with our regional sports networks. I will say, what the conventional television calendar has changed so much since – certainly since I got into this business. Primetime means something very different than it used to now that people, in essence, carry televisions around with them in their pockets. The summer is viewed differently than it was historically from a television standpoint. So, regardless of whether we had been going through all this, it’s something that the league office together with our teams has been spending a lot of time on. And we have a lot of our team owners who are technologists, media mavens by background. And so it’s something that committees of owners and league officials have been working on a lot, especially over the past year or so.
Maybe the NBA calendar should change. Maybe it shouldn’t.
But I’d caution the league: The coronavirus is significantly changing people’s schedules. Don’t rush to judge, in either direction, based on how an alternative schedule is received in the next year.
Spending less time competing with football for viewers? That holds appeal within the NBA. But with school out and the weather warm, people spend less time watching television in the summer. I think that’s still true, even in the smartphone era.
There’s a lot of complex factors to weigh, and the NBA might stumble into a test run. But it won’t be a well-controlled experiment. No matter what happens in the next year, the NBA ought to think long and hard before overhauling its schedule.
The NBA is already a successful business. It’s risky disrupting that status quo to chase even more revenue.