SBJ/February 11-17, 2013/Media

NBA viewership slips, but ad sales strong

The NBA hits its All-Star break this week with its viewership numbers down but its advertising revenue increasing, according to the league’s television partners.

Turner Sports executives last week said they have already posted more revenue this season from NBA ad sales than they have generated in any past full regular season. Among the reasons for the increase: Turner has increased its ad rates from last year by double-digit percentages as it works to sell more inventory packaged across its various NBA outlets — TNT, NBA TV and NBA Digital. In addition, virtually all of Turner’s sales are being booked on at least a quarterly basis instead of a more scattered approach in past seasons.

NBA ratings and viewership trends
TNT
  No. of
games
Avg.
Rating
Avg. # of
viewers
2012-13 28 1.4 2.1 million
2011-12 15 1.9 2.9 million
2010-11 32 1.5 2.3 million
• Down 26% in ratings, 29% in viewership versus same point last season.
• Down 7% and 11%, respectively, from same point in 2010-11.
 
NBA TV
  No. of
games
Avg.
Rating
Avg. # of
viewers
2012-13 55 0.2 327,000
2011-12 38 0.3 379,000
2010-11 NA 0.1 235,000
NA: Not available
• Down 14% in viewership compared to same point last season.
• Up 41% in viewership from same point in 2010-11.
 
ESPN
  No. of
games
Avg.
Rating
Avg. # of
viewers
2012-13 43 1.3 1.9 million
2011-12 16 1.4 2.1 million
2010-11 42 1.3 2.0 million
• Down 7% in ratings, 12% in viewership compared to same point last season.
• Flat in ratings, down 8% in viewership from same point in 2010-11.
 
ABC
  No. of
games
Avg.
Rating
Avg. # of
viewers
2012-13 4 4.2 7.3 million
2011-12 4 4.2 7.4 million
2010-11 4 4.4 8.1 million

• Flat in ratings, down 2% in viewership compared to same point last season.
• Down 8% in ratings and 11% in viewership from same point in 2010-11.

Note: Through Feb. 6. Numbers have been rounded.
Compiled by Austin Karp, SportsBusiness Daily

Turner has sold about 85 percent of its regular-season inventory to date. It has sold out of its All-Star Weekend inventory.

The NBA All-Star Game is Sunday night in Houston.

“In the past couple of years, sales were always last-minute. But this year, advertisers are locking their money down further in advance, so we are pacing ahead,” said Jon Diament, executive vice president of ad sales for Turner Sports. “We have the same inventory load, but folks are buying the whole season and the whole platform, so we have been able to increase rates based on demand.”

While All-Star Weekend officially ends with Sunday night’s game, Turner is hoping to carry its NBA audience to NBA TV next Monday night, when the network will air three one-hour shows with interviews with Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Charles Barkley. The shows are “One on One with Ahmad Rashad; Michael Jordan,” “Mr. Russell’s House,” with Grantland’s Bill Simmons interviewing Russell, and “Sir Charles at 50,” with Barkley discussing his playing career with TNT’s Ernie Johnson.

Other new programming on NBA TV comes this week, on Thursday, with “Slam Dunk Marathon” which shows every NBA slam-dunk contest since 1984.

For Turner, the ad sales strength comes despite NBA viewership on TNT through Feb. 6 being down compared to the same date in each of the past two seasons (see chart). Still, Turner is on pace to have its third most-viewed NBA season in the past decade.

“The demand for NBA programming is there,” said Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research for Horizon Media, which buys media for such clients as Geico and Capital One. “[The ad sales increase] is a little surprising, but throw in the factor that all of the league’s major markets have competitive teams, and the increased demand brings the higher rates.”

ESPN executives said their regular-season sales for the NBA are strong, as well.

“There is a lot of good carryover from past seasons,” said Doug White, senior director of programming and acquisitions for ESPN, “and it never hurts to have the New York Knicks as one of the top teams.”

Digitally, NBA.com is on a record pace for the season, with 3.7 billion page views and 2.2 billion video streams through the end of the January. This month, NBA Digital is releasing its first event-specific mobile application, NBA All-Star 2013, a free app offering All-Star content on the Apple iOS and Google Android platforms.

“This is the first time we’ve gone deep with an event-specific app like this,” said Christina Miller, general manager of NBA Digital and senior vice president of strategy, marketing and programming for Turner Sports. “The idea is give that real feel of what’s going on in Houston, whether you’re there or not.”

Staff writer Eric Fisher contributed to this report.


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