NBA Playoffs Down 27% Despite Mark Cuban, Media Spin-Job

The NBA’s two-year ratings tank just took tanking up another notch. As pointed out last night, year-over-year, the first round of the playoffs was down an eye-popping 27%. Furthermore, the first round’s 1.94 million average is down 40% from two seasons ago, the last time LeBron James participated in the playoffs.

Bizarrely, NBA ratings were the top sports topic on Twitter Thursday. For the first time since the NFL’s 2016 decline, sports media added the ratings beat to its fading arsenal. Along with spin-master Mark Cuban, the non-paid PR reps spent half the day boasting and retweeting that a down-to-the-wire Game 7 drew 4 million viewers. The latter was spent ignoring the more telling, more important first-round collapse.

The best part of Thursday’s disingenuous reaction came via Cuban, who was so proud he even allowed comments on his tweets. (That story is here.)

The headline is not a viewership decline. In an election year, with cable news ratings drawing unprecedented interest, sports are at a disadvantage. Additionally, August is not an ideal television viewing month. However, that doesn’t add up to a near 30% turnaway. Professional basketball’s grave issues are growing.

The NBA’s pivot to a Democratic promotion machine is at the top of explanations. A Harris Poll found that 38% of sports fans say they’re watching fewer games because the NBA has “become too political.” But the injection of partisanship isn’t the only reason fans have chosen to tune out.

explained the reasons last month reacting to a report viewership is down a damning 45% on broadcast TV since 2011-12:

“The NBA’s greatest strength is its stars. Stars that overshadow teams. The league is too reliant on a few top individuals. And the gap between LeBron James and No. 2 is massive.”

Similarly, social media has increased the NBA’s popularity while decreasing the need to consume it on television:

“Social media has promoted the NBA more than any other entity. The NBA is to social media what MLB was to newspapers and what the NFL is to flat-screen televisions. Twitter and Instagram, particularly, have grown the league’s interest. That’s great. What’s not: it doesn’t lead to television viewership. Instead, it encourages fans to consume games through highlights and live reactions online.

“To the younger demographic, social media is a more enjoyable medium to consume the NBA. At least as of now, and likely for years to come, a rights deal with a television network is exponentially more lucrative than what social media can provide.”

“But I thought…,” Aldridge writes while pulling a Cuban and shutting off his mentions. If Aldridge thought the league he promotes is in trouble — he thought right.

To interview Bobby Burack, contact him on Twitter @burackbobby_.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

14 Comments

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  1. Bobby: “The NBA’s greatest strength is its stars. Stars that overshadow teams. The league is too reliant on a few top individuals. And the gap between LeBron James and No. 2 is massive.”

    You hit the bullseye…between woke politics and a dearth of NBA stars it’s no wonder. And a close third — the quality of their product sucks. It’s schoolyard stuff; playground stuff.

  2. It’s prolly down more than that but hey it’s what the queen wanted you got it genius and i can’t believe 3mm people watch that Maddow dude can’t stand him.

  3. I guess in Mark Cuban’s woke and orwellian world,
    “War is Peace”,
    “Freedom is Slavery”,
    “Ignorance is Strength”,
    and now……”Cratering viewership is Good Business”
    I am sure Billionaire Cuban doesn’t care though. Cuban will just have his friend “Jack” (jack dorsey, twitter CEO) write a twitter algorithm that makes it seem like masses of fans still follow NBA. Cuban’s only regret is probably that he didn’t get to ride Epstein’s lolita express with his buddy Clinton. Missed out that, huh Mark? Epstein got arrested before you joined the woke brigade of warped values.

  4. There has never been an entity more discussed and more irreverent than the NBA. It’s like no one wants to mention that the games blow and no one gives an F. It’s like fatherless black children. It’s too icky to mention. If the NBA was 80% white would it be discussed at all. Shannon Sharpton would not know a players name. Hell they may have to learn Hockey basics. I’m blown away daily how this league is covered. Almost no one cares.

  5. If present course continues, NBA will become a niche product, appealing to a few hardcore fans and family members (like the WNBA only bigger). While revenues will drop dramatically, players will insist that owners accept less profits rather than reducing player pay. If owners balk, players will strike — and owners will have to cave. To us, that sounds dismal. To the woke players, it’s “who gives a s—- about those racist honkies.”

  6. The NBA’s gradual decline initially had little to do with race. During its ’80’s-’90’s heydey, up until Kobe & his Laker’s fall from grace, the league was 80% black. It is the style of play…the lack of of physical, in the paint big men & team dynamics, in favor of hoisting up 3’s. However, the BLM hoops show has quickly turned off much more of its fanbase. Obviously, Silver had to know this before hand, but the demographic that is tuning out is one the league isn’t too concerned about, because they’re not the target market for $150 athletic shoes or new tech or youth oriented hip hop culture. Not to mention, with the 1B China market factored in, it’s a hit they’ll take. The downside is the league is on its way to having the social relevance of the WNBA. China i$ their future ca$h cow…which is why I bet they’ll have teams there by the end of the decade.

  7. I don’t know why they don’t move the entire league to China. The players can live under communism. They’ll love it. And then they’ll find racism in China and can protest against the Chinese government, including kneeling for the Chinese National Anthem. That will go well for them.

  8. “The NBA’s greatest strength is its stars. Stars that overshadow teams. The league is too reliant on a few top individuals. And the gap between LeBron James and No. 2 is massive.”

    It’s not the reliance on a few top individuals as much as a complete breakdown of the team dynamics of the game. Basketball is a team game.

    2010s March Madness ratings are still way up there, competitive with the best ever years (the 1970s and 80s), meanwhile NBA Finals and Playoffs are down 30-50% compared to the 1980s and 1990s NBA Finals.

    Why do people continue to watch college basketball in huge numbers but a huge chunk have checked out of the NBA? Because the NBA is boring, and college basketball isn’t.

    The NBA’s greatest weakness is its culture, and in large part its stars as well. The league is soft, the rule changes have ruined defense in the league, and players often half ass it. On many teams star players have more authority than coaches (which is why many of the great college coaches have never moved to the NBA) and NBA franchises just don’t maintain the type of accountability and structure you see in the NFL and MLB.

    There is still elite level athleticism and style in the NBA, but it’s a shadow of what it was 20 years ago. The league was built on substance of great team basketball, Magic/Bird/Jordan added to that style, and all that’s left is the style in 2020. And that will be enough to carry the NBA for a long time, their revenues are up almost every year. But I don’t think it will ever be the mainstream draw it was in the 90s until the game gets more serious and re-adopts a competitive culture.

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