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The on-court product in the NBA has been in decline for years. Defenders of the league give all sorts of excuses for poor television ratings. But take a look at the TV ratings for the First Round of the NCAA Tournament — the official March Madness kickoff — and you’ll see the problem isn’t basketball.
It turns out that fans like exciting basketball games where the players talk about things like, oh I don’t know, basketball.
There has not been a single national anthem controversy during March Madness. I haven’t seen “Black Lives Matter” stamped across one court in the NCAA Tournament.
No players are giving lectures on why America is a terrible and racist country. Players are giving it their all and not resting their bodies because of “load management.”
Coaches are taking their shirts off and going crazy. They’re getting emotional. Fans are getting into the action and sticking it to the NCAA.
Players are dropping postgame “F bombs.” The only “controversy” revolves around whether or not it’s appropriate to try and throw down a 360 dunk in the closing seconds of a certain victory.
Hell, the NBA can’t even get through the Canadian National Anthem without “woking it up.”
America is fed up with the soft, entitled, uniformed and morally righteous NBA stars who think we NEED them. No, guys, YOU need US. You need us to watch and you need us to buy tickets.
And if the product is good, we will. Take a look at what the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament produced over the weekend.
March Madness NCAA Tournament TV ratings show people enjoy watching basketball, but not the NBA
According to Sports Business Journal, the tournament featured the most-watched first round in its history. More than 9 million people (9.3 million) watched the games on average. When #16 Fairleigh Dickinson was in the midst of upsetting #1 Purdue, over 11-and-a-half million eyeballs were fixated on the screen.
For comparison, the first two rounds of last season’s NBA Playoffs averaged 3.7 million viewers. Yes, the NCAA Tournament first round games bring in over 2.5 times more eyeballs.
Ready for it to get worse for the wokest league in sports? The NBA Eastern and Western Conference FINALS averaged under 7 million viewers (around 6.8 million combined average).
Nearly 30% more people watched the FIRST ROUND of the NCAA Tournament than the NBA’s CONFERENCE FINALS.
Think about that for minute.
And, don’t forget that just last month the NBA All-Star Game pulled in its worst audience of all-time.
Forget about the regular season. Those games are unwatchable. According to Sports Media Watch, “Not counting Christmas, ABC averaged 2.64 million viewers for its 15 NBA telecasts during the regular season — down 1% from last year’s 16-game schedule (2.66M).”
That may not seem like much, but at a time when every other sports’ TV ratings are trending up, the NBA is trending down. What a surprise.
Everyone knows that the NFL is king, but take a look at the most watched TV broadcasts of 2022:
There are two basketball emojis on the entire chart. And neither belongs to the NBA. Nope, those are both March Madness NCAA Tournament games.
It will be interesting to continue to monitor the NCAA Tournament ratings, particularly as we get down to the Final Four.
Last year, college basketball had two blue-blood programs — North Carolina and Kansas — reach the Championship and arguably the greatest rivalry in sports — Duke and North Carolina — in the Final Four.
That will be hard to replicate this year, but fans are tuning in anyways.
Why? Because fans like basketball.
They’re just tired of the NBA.
I don’t blame them.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @RealDanZak