TV Partners Likely To Benefit From NBA's Earlier Start Times In '19-20
The NBA has released its '19-20 schedule, which will see teams "start several games a half-hour earlier than usual, while broadcasters ESPN and Turner are going to earlier start times on many of their midweek doubleheader nights," according to Tim Reynolds of the AP. Such a change has been on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s mind for "some time, especially since roughly half of the nation’s television homes are in the East time zone -- but now, a number of the league’s biggest stars play on the West coast." ESPN’s Wednesday doubleheaders -- mostly at 8:00 and 10:30pm ET last season -- will begin at either 7:00 or 7:30pm, followed by a second game at either 9:30 or 10:00pm in the East. TNT had nine Tuesday doubleheaders last season, with the second game starting at 10:30pm; this season, that number is down to two, with the second game now mostly starting at 9:30 or 10:00pm. In all, there were 57 games on national television starting at 10:30pm last season. That number falls to 33 this season, a dip of 42% (AP, 8/12).
CALIFORNIA LOVE: In DC, Ben Golliver notes the earlier-start-time initiative comes after superstars such as LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George "flocked to West Coast franchises." Not moving to an earlier start time is TNT’s “Inside the NBA” Thursday lineup, which will "continue to air most of its doubleheaders" at 8:00 and 10:30pm. The Lakers, Warriors and Clippers -- all based in California -- have the "most TNT appearances." The "underwhelming" '18-19 NBA ratings, "coupled with this summer’s westward migration of talent, may have convinced" Silver to act (WASHINGTON POST, 8/13). Former Hawks GM Wes Wilcox noted the Lakers only have two "lock playoff teams" scheduled in their first 20 games, as the league has a "tendency to backload" their schedule. The latter part of the Lakers' schedule typically includes "all of those huge opponent games, marquee games, when football is over, and so the Lakers typically get a friendly early schedule" ("Schedule Release Special," NBA TV, 8/12).
FAN FRIENDLY: In N.Y., Andrew Marchand notes ratings "sagged last year in part due to James’ move to the Lakers and their late national starts for East Coast viewers." The Lakers had 19 games that began at 10:30pm on national TV last year. This season, they will have 10 games that begin in that late broadcast window. Stephen Curry and the Warriors will see a "similar drop to the Lakers," with their number of 10:30pm games going from 18 to 11 (N.Y. POST, 8/13). NBA TV's Jared Greenberg said the "biggest highlight of the new calendar is being able to get to bed a little earlier if you live in the eastern time zone." TNT's Charles Barkley said he and his co-hosts on "Inside the NBA" have been trying to get the NBA to move up the start times for East Coast games "for years." Barkley said the later start times are "not fair to the East Coast" ("Schedule Release Special," NBA TV, 8/12). CBSSN's Adam Schein said moving times up is "brilliant," as it "means more eyeballs from the East Coast." This is a "nice subtle change that's actually a huge deal" ("Time to Schein," CBSSN, 8/12).