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Volume 21 No. 2


The NBA’s local TV ratings look a lot like the league’s standings at the halfway point of this season, with good numbers in Oklahoma City and disappointment in Los Angeles.

Coming off a year in which the Thunder posted the NBA’s best RSN ratings, OKC’s games on FS Oklahoma once again are the league’s highest. The Western Conference’s top team has averaged an 8.80 rating so far this season, easily outdistancing its NBA rivals.

Meanwhile, the ratings story in Los Angeles has not been positive. In the Lakers’ second year on TWC SportsNet, the team has seen the NBA’s second-biggest drop in ratings for their games. One of sport’s marquee franchises has seen its games average a 2.72 rating, down a whopping 37 percent from the season’s midpoint last year. Only the Milwaukee Bucks have seen a steeper percentage drop. The last-place Bucks have seen their local ratings drop 67 percent, and the team is averaging a league-low 5,000 homes for each telecast, the NBA’s lowest figure in at least six years.


TEAM RSN AVG. rating
(Change from
Oklahoma City Thunder FS Oklahoma 8.80 (+5%)
San Antonio Spurs FS Southwest 7.33 (+22%)
Miami Heat Sun Sports 6.85 (+23%)
Indiana Pacers FS Midwest 4.30 (+139%)
Portland Trail Blazers CSN Northwest 4.27 (+51%)
TEAM RSN AVG. rating
(Change from
New York Knicks MSG 169,000 (-34%)
Los Angeles Lakers TWC SportsNet 154,000 (-37%)
Miami Heat Sun Sports 114,000 (+23%)
Chicago Bulls CSN Chicago 105,000 (-11%)
Golden State Warriors CSN Bay Area 79,000 (+15%)
TEAM RSN AVG. rating
(Change from
Indiana Pacers FS Midwest 4.30 (+139%)
New Orleans Pelicans FS New Orleans 2.03 (+59%)
Portland Trail Blazers CSN Northwest 4.27 (+51%)
Phoenix Suns FS Arizona 2.00 (+41%)
Houston Rockets CSN Houston 1.21 (+38%)

Note: Comparable data was not available for Memphis (SportSouth), Utah (Root Sports Utah) and Toronto (Sportsnet). Source: Nielsen

The Lakers’ drop has come while the team has suffered through a poor season on the court, and star player Kobe Bryant hasn’t played since the middle of December because of injury. But it’s not just the Lakers who have seen a decline in Los Angeles. Clippers games on Prime Ticket have posted a 15 percent drop, to a 1.28 average, and that’s despite the team being a division leader.

Overall, the NBA is doing well locally this season, posting increases with 16 of the 27 teams for which SportsBusiness Journal received Nielsen data. Nationally, ESPN’s ratings are flat (1.2 average), but ABC’s are down 19 percent (3.1 average).

Perhaps the league’s best local TV story is in Indiana, where the Pacers’ success on the floor has been reflected in the local ratings. The team’s games have posted the NBA’s biggest increase, up 139 percent from the same point last year. The Golden State Warriors also are posting good numbers. The team’s 3.13 rating on CSN Bay Area continues a trend of ratings increases that has seen the club’s average double since the 2010-11 season.

San Antonio continues to shine, as well. Spurs games are averaging a 7.33 rating on FS Southwest, keeping the club in its annual position among the league’s RSN leaders. When Spurs games on local over-the-air broadcasters are included, the team’s average rating is 8.1. The 11 games on KENS-CBS have averaged a 10.6 rating, and the two games on KMYS-CW35 averaged an 8.0 mark.

“Historically, our numbers begin to increase from late January on, so the current numbers may have some more upward growth,” said Lawrence Payne, executive vice president of partnerships, broadcasting, branding and content, Spurs Sports & Entertainment.

Rockets games on CSN Houston are up 38 percent this year, but the team’s 1.21 rating is still only half what the team posted during the 2010-11 season, when FS Houston carried the club’s games. CSN Houston continues to have problems getting carriage in the market and is in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings.

Charlotte is another tough market this season. Despite the Bobcats’ more-competitive play so far this year, the team’s telecasts have only slightly improved. The Bobcats are averaging just 9,000 homes per game, the NBA’s second smallest audience. Last year at this time, the team was averaging 7,000 homes per game.

Research director David Broughton contributed to this report.

The golden anniversary of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit edition is fueling a 12 percent jump in revenue for the magazine’s iconic franchise, extending a recent wave of growth.

Specific financial figures were not disclosed, but this year marks the fifth consecutive year of growth in Swimsuit revenue, and revenue from the franchise has grown 45 percent over the past three years. SI sold 112 ad pages for the 2014 Swimsuit edition, up by 10 from a year ago and its largest total since 2007. In this year’s edition are 15 custom advertisers, several of which use past or present Swimsuit models. Key marketing partners this year include Target, Lexus, Finish Line, Crown Royal and Captain Morgan.

A new, Instagram-inspired website devoted to SI’s Swimsuit will make its debut Tuesday.
“Both consumers and advertisers love anniversaries, and you look at what Swim has accomplished across all platforms, it’s been incredible,” said SI Publisher Brendan Ripp. Ripp, a former sales and marketing executive at Fortune magazine and a Time Inc. veteran, started in the SI post last month. “We think the response to seeing the models both past and present this year for the 50th will be huge.”

In addition to the current crop of models, the anniversary edition will feature an extensive retrospective tribute featuring former Swimsuit stars such as Christie Brinkley, Kathy Ireland and Heidi Klum.

Another high-profile partner for Swimsuit this year is toymaker Mattel, which will feature the Barbie doll in the magazine and produce a limited-edition 2014 Swimsuit Barbie to be sold exclusively at Mattel’s execution for Barbie around Swimsuit carries the tagline of “#unapologetic,” acknowledging the doll’s much-debated status as a role model for young girls.

Ripp, who had a big hand in Fortune’s conference business, is also pushing to make Swimsuit into more of an experiential event. After several years of conducting Swimsuit launch parties in Las Vegas, SI this year will instead travel to Miami for several days of promotional events. Part of the planned execution is a tie-in with the Food Network’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and a volleyball tournament involving models and chefs in Miami Beach’s Lummas Park that will be open to the public. SI previously made all its Swimsuit launch events invitation-only.

The 2014 Swimsuit edition, set to hit newsstands Tuesday, will contain 252 pages, up 28 from a year ago, and the largest overall Swimsuit issue since the 25th anniversary in 1989. Models Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge and Chrissy Tiegen are on this year’s cover, and popular model Kate Upton is featured in a flipcover format that devotes the back cover to editorial instead of advertising. Upton was on the front of the last two Swimsuit issues, with last year’s edition posting the best newsstand sales of any single American magazine in 2013.

SI also altered the cover reveal process itself for Swimsuit this year, eschewing CBS’s “Late Show With David Letterman” after many years and instead doing its traditional pageant-style reveal with models present on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” SI wanted to reduce the time between the final cover design and its public unveiling, thus reducing the chances for an unauthorized leak. SI was to unveil the cover on the show last Thursday, and the “Late Show” was dark last week.

As has been the case for several years, SI also is devoting significant resources to its digital deployment of Swimsuit. A new, Instagram-inspired website will debut Tuesday, and will again feature a return of the popular 360-degree view feature in which scrolling over the photos will create the appearance of spinning around. An updated mobile application features content from the last three Swimsuit editions and includes an altered back-end architecture to allow for quicker loading of photos.