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Volume 23 No. 24
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NBA’s RSN ratings down 15 percent this season

The Dallas Mavericks are well below .500, and their RSN ratings have dropped 53 percent.
Sports TV’s ratings doldrums are hitting local NBA games hard this season. So far, at least 20 teams are posting lower or flat ratings compared with the same point last season.

As of the first week in February, NBA game ratings on regional sports networks were down 15 percent in total, a decrease that mirrors other sports as the popularity of news networks during the pre- and post-election cycle has siphoned viewers away from sports.

But media executives say that, much like local NHL ratings, which also were down, the NBA’s local ratings have started to rebound and are expected to be healthy after the All-Star break.

The NBA’s steepest drops are in Dallas and Orlando. The Mavericks’ ratings average has fallen 53 percent so far during a season in which the team has stayed well below the .500 mark. The Magic’s local game ratings are down 50 percent as the team has crawled to the second worst record in the Eastern Conference.

Even the normally reliable Spurs ratings registered a 43 percent drop so far this season, though their 5.11 rating in the San Antonio DMA is the league’s fourth highest.

SportsBusiness Journal analyzed ratings data for teams across the NBA. Information for Memphis, Utah and Toronto was not available.

The Warriors, who added superstar Kevin Durant to an already star-studded team this offseason, once again posted the league’s highest ratings on CSN Bay Area (8.54 rating), followed by the NBA champion Cavaliers on FS Ohio (7.00) and Thunder games on FS OKC (6.18).

The season’s best ratings story so far is in Philadelphia, where 76ers games on CSN Philadelphia are up a whopping 80 percent this season (1.93) as the team has shown improvement. Rockets games on Root Sports (up 23 percent to a 1.91) and Pelicans games on FS New Orleans (up 20 percent to a 1.43) also showed impressive growth.

But the big story so far this season deals with ratings drops, even from good teams and basketball-crazy markets.

The top three teams in the East are down double digits: the Cavaliers (down 28 percent), Celtics (down 15 percent) and the Wizards (down 12 percent). In Chicago, Bulls ratings so far are down 35 percent, following a season when they dropped 37 percent.

Average Rating Change

Team RSN Avg. rating (change) Team RSN Avg. rating (change)
76ers CSN Philadelphia 1.93 (+80%) Nuggets Altitude 0.58 (-38%)
Rockets Root Sports 1.91 (+23%) Spurs FS Southwest 5.11 (-43%)
Pelicans FS New Orleans 1.43 (+20%) Heat Sun Sports 2.30 (-48%)
T-Wolves FS North 1.60 (+10%) Magic FS Florida 0.69 (-50%)
Bucks FS Wisconsin 2.10 (+9%) Mavericks FS Southwest 0.78 (-53%)

Average Rating

Team RSN Avg. rating (change) Team RSN Avg. rating (change)
Warriors CSN Bay Area 8.54 (+1%) Wizards CSN Mid-Atlantic 0.84 (-12%)
Cavaliers FS Ohio 7.00 (-28%) Mavericks FS Southwest 0.78 (-53%)
Thunder FS Oklahoma 6.18 (-8%) Magic FS Florida 0.69 (-50%)
Spurs FS Southwest 5.11 (-43%) Nuggets Altitude 0.58 (-38%)
Pacers FS Indiana 2.89 (-12%) Nets YES Network 0.42 (-11%)