Who would have ever thought that a 30-year old Canadian, with a Phys. Ed. degree from Presbyterian College in Montreal, would one day immigrate to Springfield, Massachusetts, and in order to occupy his unruly students during the long New England winter months end up inventing the game of basketball?
James Naismith’s “American” invention has come a long way from peach baskets and the “no dribble” rule! Today, its popularity stretches literally around the globe. Basketball’s simplicity, modest use of space and low cost to play has led numerous countries to adopt the game. Indeed, several NBA stars today are from countries outside the United States – something almost unheard of just a short generation ago.
Today, the pro basketball season is a literal grind on the hardcourt as the biggest, fastest and most skilled players in the world compete head-on for a total of 82 games from mid-October through the first half of April. (And all of that as just a prelude to a 4-round playoff format in which the ultimate NBA Champion would have to play anywhere from 16 to 28 additional post-season games).
As for the regular season, ad-supported cable has been following the sport as far back as 1983 (ESPN) and 1988 (TNT.) And last season (2016-17), these two mainstays aired (by our count) over 140+ Live NBA games, delivering solid ratings and shares:
Premium Local Market Ratings
As is the case with all other major sports we’ve blogged about in this space, there is a significant divergence in local market ratings when a market’s local NBA team participates in a national telecast. It is practically a guarantee that local market ratings will soar past the national average. On TNT, for example, the October 25th, 2016 match-up between the visiting San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors pulled down a 2.22 national rating. In the Spurs home market of San Antonio, the local rating was 5-times higher (11.15), while in the Warriors’ home market of San Francisco the rating was more than 6-times higher (14.51):
Regional Cable Networks
Although ESPN & TNT are the two most highly visible NBA cable networks, they are hardly alone. At the national level, NBA-TV carries NBA games, while at the regional level, a variety of channels (including FOX Regional Nets, MSG, YES and Comcast Regional Nets) carry numerous games. Over the past two seasons, for example, Viamedia clients invested in over 780 NBA basketball games of which two-thirds were carried on regional cable networks:
When it comes to household income (and education), there is a divergence in audiences between ESPN and TNT, even though they are essentially telecasting the same content. While TNT’s NBA audience more or less reflects the general population, ESPN’s audience skews more upscale as can be seen in the chart below. For example, the highest rating is for homes with $250,000 or more income (1.21), which is over 20% higher than the average rating across all homes:
Of some note is the fact that both ESPN and TNT have very similar audience compositions when it comes to race and ethnicity, and with over 70% of the NBA comprised of African-American players, it is no surprise that the NBA attracts a large African-American audience. Last season, ESPN & TNT delivered a weight-average rating of 2.19 against African-American households, doubling the national average of 1.03 (212.6 Index). But what is surprising — the relatively high NBA rating for Asian-American homes which typically view less television than any other major ethnic group. And, yet, their 1.21 NBA rating is 18% higher than the national average:
Local Cable Advertising
Local cable advertising demand for NBA Basketball has been spectacular! Over the past two regular seasons, 875 advertisers ordered nearly 26,700 30-second spots across 72 Viamedia local markets (practically our entire nationwide footprint.) That comes to an average of 15 spots per advertiser (per season). Additionally, client demand for NBA regular season games has increased 8.4% over the past two seasons driven by:
- 2% rise in the number of 30-second units;
- 1% rise in unit pricing;
- .1% rise due to the multiplicative effect of units sold and pricing.
Source: Viamedia analysis of B.I.G. internal database (“Sports & High Profile Tracker”). Note: client demand for past two NBA Regular Seasons has been normalized on a “per client” basis. Copyright © 2017 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All major sports attract significant automotive local cable advertising dollars, and the NBA Regular Season is no exception. Nearly 60 cents on the dollar accrued to the automotive category over the past two NBA years — that’s nearly double the amount we typically see for automotive company-wide (across all programming.) No other category comes close to that sort of over-representation:
Let the Games Begin
Unlike past seasons, the upcoming 72nd NBA Regular Season will get underway a week earlier (October 17th, 2017) to minimize the number of back-to-back games. What hasn’t changed: a league comprised of half a dozen elite teams, such as the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers who have both made it to the NBA Finals the past three years. And no doubt they will have plenty of competition this season from the likes of the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics. Closer to home (here in New York), we’re still on the bottom looking up as both the Knicks and the Nets continue their losing ways. But whether you are rooting for the best teams in the league (or the worst), NBA fans across the country will get to watch the greatest players in the world on cable TV. Let the games begin!
Written by Jonathan Sims
VP of Media Research, Viamedia