NBA Ratings Have Plummeted Since 2019 More Than You Think

Sports writers and broadcasters -- extensions of the NBA's PR department -- often become emotional and throw the book at critics who accurately point out that the NBA is a diminishing brand. The book is full of directions on how to dishonestly convince the audience that the NBA's plummet isn't as bad as the few honest media members say. The puppets are running out of excuses though. 

The media yelled "Bubble!" last season as the NBA's rating tanked to lows you had to blink twice to believe. Fine, let's take last year out and compare this year to 2019. Are you sure that's what you want? To forget last year's numbers?

OutKick has learned that since 2019, NBA broadcasts on ABC, ESPN, TNT are down 25%. Gone. Have not returned.

Each year that LeBron James waves a middle finger at half the country, viewers respond by turning the channel at a rate higher than the previous year. 

Compared to 2019, TNT's 2021 slate dropped 19%, from 1.5 million to 1.2 million. ESPN fell even further, down 26%, from 1.6 million down to under 1.2 million.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver once blamed cable packages for collapsing ratings. Has he seen what his sport is doing on ABC, the NBA's sole broadcast partner? ABC tanked 25% between 2019 and 2021, going from 3.6 million to 2.7 million. That's a new all-time low. Since 2011-12, ABC's NBA broadcasts are down more than 45%. Nearly half of the audience has left.

Perhaps, the media that omitted the 2020 NBA ratings from the system will reinsert them so that they can stick with the 13% decline between 2020 and 2021? 

While cord-cutting has hurt all TV programs, the NBA is in a league all its own. TV numbers are already down, thus when a brand then tells half the country they are racist criminals, maybe even terrorists, its viewers leave, sinking that number even further.

In a column last week, I dove into a bevy of reasons the NBA is down to historical lows. You can read in full here:

Painting “Black Lives Matter” on the court, endangering heroic police officers, lying about race relations, promulgating a myth that police are “hunting” black people, bowing to the Chinese Communist Party, and profiting off slave labor all play well online and with shoe companies. But they do not resonate with a majority of the American population.

A recent study proves as much, finding that nearly half of America changed its sports viewing habits once political and social messaging began to spread across the leagues, particularly the NBA.

Other sports have not suffered nearly as much. Take the horses for example. The 2021 Preakness actually increased viewership from 2019 by 29%.

The NBA had a bad 2019. The NBA had an all-time horrible 2020. What do you call its 2021?

Written by
Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest topics in media, culture, sports, and politics.. Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcasts and radio stations.