Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 26 No. 65
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

NBA Regular-Season Audience Lower On National Nets, But Teams See Gains On RSNs

NBA regular-season viewership fell again on cable TV during the ’14-15 season, as the league saw some of its bigger markets struggle on the court and several key stars suffer through season-ending injuries. TNT averaged 1.67 million viewers for its complete slate of games, marking the net’s lowest figure since the ’07-08 season. TNT’s games were down 12% from last season. For the net’s main Thursday night doubleheader window, TNT averaged 1.8 million viewers, down 5% from ’13-14. ESPN saw game viewership decline 10% compared to ’13-14, with the net’s average of 1.51 million viewers also marking a low point dating back to ’07-08. NBA TV drew 291,000 average viewers for 98 games in ’14-15, marking the net’s lowest figure since ’10-11 (-8% from last season). NBA TV did see some viewership gains for original programming, such as “The Starters” (+13%), “Open Court” (+50%) and “NBA Inside Stuff” (+8%). Meanwhile, viewership for NBA games on broadcast TV were relatively flat. ABC drew 3.59 million viewers compared to 3.58 million last season.

VIEWERSHIP TREND FOR NBA REGULAR-SEASON GAMES
SEASON
ABC (000)
TNT (000)
ESPN (000)
NBA TV (000)
'14-15
3,588
1,670
1,507
291
'13-14
3,584
1,900
1,678
316
'12-13
4,701
2,002
1,768
336
'11-12 (lockout season)
5,421
2,498
1,863
337
'10-11
5,110
2,397
1,988
253
'09-10
3,694
1,723
1,561
n/a
'08-09
3,684
1,711
1,680
n/a
'07-08
3,175
1,473
1,468
n/a
         

LOCAL: While NBA coverage on national nets may have been down, teams saw a 4% overall growth on RSNs, where the majority of games are aired. The ’14-15 season marked a tie for the second-best RSN average for teams on record. The Spurs reclaimed the top spot among all teams with an 8.1 local rating in San Antonio on FS Southwest. The return of F LeBron James to the Cavaliers helped the team jump to second overall this season, with FS Ohio’s telecasts averaging an 8.0 rating in Cleveland-Akron. That figure for the Cavs was up 172%, but it was not even the biggest increase among all NBA teams. The Bucks saw a 324% gain for games on FS Wisconsin. Also seeing a triple-digit jump were Hawks games on SportSouth (+129%). The two biggest markets in the country were not much help this season. Knicks ratings in N.Y. on MSG Net were down 37%, while Lakers ratings in L.A. on Time Warner Cable SportsNet were down 27%. The two markets also were a drag on national numbers. For TNT’s games, the net saw a 48% drop for all games in the N.Y. markets, while ratings in the L.A. market were down 46%. The Nuggets, much like in league attendance, saw the sharpest drop, with local ratings for games in the Denver market falling 50%. Below is a five-year trend for local ratings for the Spurs, Cavaliers, Thunder (FS Oklahoma), Heat (Sun Sports) and Warriors (CSN Bay Area).


DIGITAL: Records were set for NBA Digital this season. NBA.com saw record traffic (page views and video views). NBA Mobile’s page views were up 25%, with video views up 105%. There also were a record number of NBA League Pass subscribers this season, and the number was up 40% from ’13-14. Premium subs for League Pass were up 87%. The NBA Game Time app also saw a record 7.4 million global downloads. Meanwhile, for NBA games on the WatchESPN app, there was a 117% gain in total minutes consumed, while average-minute audience was up 54%. ESPN.com’s NBA section saw a 14% gain in total minutes consumed and a 3% gain in average-minute audience.

SOCIAL: The NBA ended the regular season with around 39.9 million combined Facebook/Twitter users, up from 30.9 million at the end of the '13-14 season. That figure tops the NFL (22.7 million across Facebook/Twitter), MLB (10.4 million) and the NHL (7.0 million). The NBA this season saw a 22% gain in Facebook likes, 42% gain in Twitter followers, 151% gain in Instagram followers and a 33% gain in videos viewed on the official YouTube page. TNT’s NBA social presence (Facebook+Twitter+Instagram) grew 80% since last March, while NBA TV’s social presence grew 119% during the same period.

TOP GAMES: James was again the clear needle-mover for viewership this season. The Cavaliers played in five games on ABC this season, and they all ranked in the top six among ABC broadcasts in ’14-15. The Cavs' performance on ABC this season was better than the Heat did during James’ first season there in ’10-11. The Heat played in only two of the top six games that season on ABC. Meanwhile, on cable TV, the Cavs played in five of the 10 most-viewed games. Despite a poor record, the Lakers still played in three of the top 10. ESPN and TNT each had five telecasts among the top 10 most-watched cable games this season. TNT had three of the five most-viewed games.

MOST-VIEWED NBA GAMES ON CABLE FOR '14-15 SEASON
RANK
DATE
NET
MATCHUP
START (ET)
VIEWERS (000)
1
12/25/14
TNT
Lakers-Bulls
8:14pm
4,040
2
10/30/14
TNT
Knicks-Cavaliers
8:02pm
4,024
3
10/31/14
ESPN
Cavaliers-Bulls
8:04pm
3,877
4
12/25/14
TNT
Warriors-Clippers
10:43pm
3,076
5
12/25/14
ESPN
Wizards-Knicks
11:59am
3,042
6
10/31/14
ESPN
Clippers-Lakers
10:55pm
2,884
7
11/19/14
ESPN
Spurs-Cavaliers
7:00pm
2,648
8
2/26/15
TNT
Warriors-Cavaliers
8:14pm
2,644
9
10/28/14
TNT
Rockets-Lakers
10:44pm
2,420
10
11/7/14
ESPN
Cavaliers-Nuggets
10:38pm
2,382