The 2020 NBA Finals Ratings Are Historically Bad. But Why?

Ratings for the NBA finals are at an all-time low. While some have pointed the finger at the boycott by players and a social justice movement as the reason for the decline, it could be a number of factors impacting viewership.

NBA Viewership Setting Records: The NBA finals are seeing 48% less viewers than last year. Through the first three games, the NBA finals averaged 6.71 million viewers. The drop in viewers was -43%, -52% and -56% for the first three games, respectively.

Some thought that a finals series featuring Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat would see better viewership.

The NBA finals air on ABC, a Walt Disney Co (NYSE: DIS) company. Earlier NBA Playoff games aired on ESPN and AT&T (NYSE: T) owned channel TNT.

Other Sports: Viewership for the MLB playoffs is down 39% compared to last season. Early into the NFL season, games are seeing 14% less viewers. The NHL playoffs saw a 25% drop in viewership, including a 61% drop for the Stanley Cup finals.

The Kentucky Derby saw viewership come in at 9.3 million versus an average of around 15 million for its rescheduled September race.

Reasons For The Decline: Nielsen Media Research seems to displace any notion that viewers aren’t tuning in due to the league’s push for social justice.

The audience of the 2020 NBA playoffs is made up of 45% white viewers and 55% non-white viewers. That compares to a 46%/54% respective mix for last year’s NBA playoffs.

The biggest reason for the decline in views could simply be the timing of the season. A typical NBA season is wrapping up its playoffs by June, compared to October this year.

Another contributing factor could be the NBA competing against other sports for viewers. Game 3 of the NBA finals marked the first time a finals game competed head to head with the NFL.

The 2020 presidential election could also be contributing to the decline in viewership. Cable networks like Fox News, MSNBC and CNN are all seeing an increase in primetime viewership. Game 3 was also overshadowed by President Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.

Why It’s Important: NBA players boycotted games in August after resuming the season. The NBA had already lost $1 billion from a shortened season and risked losing $1 billion from ending the playoffs early.

Last year’s NBA playoffs generated $932 million in advertising revenue. Disney had stated that they were seeing new advertisers for the resumed season.

Live sports remain one of the key markets for advertisers as they are more cord-cutter proof than shows. The decline in viewership for sports could have an impact on advertising rates going forward.

Courtesy image NBA via YouTube

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