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NBA All-Star Game ratings tie record low, continue down year: Is there reason for concern?

On Monday, Sports Business Journal reported that NBA ratings are taking a hit this year.

On average, regional broadcasts were down 10 percent at the All-Star break compared to where they were at the same time last year, according to the report. SBJ noted that national broadcasts are down 18 percent on TNT and three percent on ABC while remaining flat on ESPN.

Where markets like Denver and Dallas have thrived behind the rise of the Nuggets as a Western Conference power and the excitement of the Luka Doncic era with the Mavericks, New York, Chicago and Boston have seen ratings drops ranging from 27 to 41 percent this season, SBJ reports.

All-Star Game numbers are down, too

More bad news landed on Wednesday when Sports Media Watch reported that Sunday’s All-Star Game tied a low for records dating back to 1990. Sunday’s game in Charlotte garnered a 3.8 rating, drawing 6.8 million viewers, according to the report.

Last year’s game in Los Angeles drew a 4.3 rating with 7.7 million viewers, a number on trend with games dating back to the 2014 All-Star Game in New Orleans.

The 2010 game in Dallas and 2008 game in New Orleans also drew 3.8 ratings like this year’s.

Are casual basketball fans simply sick of watching the Golden State Warriors dominate the NBA? (Getty)
Are casual basketball fans simply sick of watching the Golden State Warriors dominate the NBA? (Getty)

Why the drop?

National ratings were expected to take a hit this season with LeBron James moving to Los Angeles. The game’s biggest star spent his previous 13 seasons in the Eastern Conference playing largely in hours that don’t require much of the country to stay up past midnight to watch.

James is that powerful of a force.

Now you’ve got to stay up late if you want to watch LeBron.

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Warriors fatigue?

The league is likely experiencing Golden State Warriors fatigue as well. With three championships in four years, the Warriors are amongst the surest bets in sports.

The initial glossiness of Stephen Curry’s squad has worn off, and it’s not surprising if some viewers are tuning out because they believe the outcome of the season is inevitable.

What these bigger issues don’t address is why Sunday’s All-Star game took a dip. James was there in prime time, and Warriors players were split up on different teams.

It’s possible the casual fans who have tuned out because of the above-mentioned reasons didn’t jump back on board during the All-Star break.

LeBron James moving out West has not helped the NBA ratings cause. (Getty)
LeBron James moving out West has not helped the NBA ratings cause. (Getty)

Should the NBA be concerned?

The numbers drops across the board are obvious reasons for concern among the league and its partners. The NBA has been rising in popularity thanks in part to its social-media savvy and adept promotion of players as stars.

No American sports league has adapted to the fast-evolving media landscape as the NBA.

If Warriors’ fatigue is truly at play here, the tides of the future of the league are already shifting. Young talent has amassed in cities like Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas and Milwaukee, promising a change in the league in the coming years.

This upcoming offseason’s free-agency bonanza could bode well for other teams like the New York Knicks.

Future looks bright for NBA

In short, there’s potential for a lot of exciting change in the league to reignite the momentum it’s experienced in recent years.

These numbers represent a short-term setback on those long-term gains. Ratings, of course, ebb and flow like anything else. NBA ratings were never going to continue on an unending rise upward.

So while the wide swath of ratings drops should be cause for concern in NBA circles, it shouldn’t trigger alarm bells.

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