With TV-Ratings On An All-Time Low, The NBA Has Set New Digital Viewership Records Instead

Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

With TV-Ratings On An All-Time Low, The NBA Has Set New Digital Viewership Records Instead


While this year hasn’t been the first year the NBA has had problems with its TV ratings, it got worse at an alarmingly bad rate, if we compare the numbers.

It was not too different compared to last season for most of the regular season, or at least the pre-coronavirus part, but the numbers for the postseason, and Finals especially have been more than disappointing.

Last year’s Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors averaged 15.1 million viewers. This year’s NBA Finals only averaged 7.5 million viewers over the six games, a 51% decline to last year. 

Games 1, 2 and 3 even were the least watched NBA Finals games in NBA history. 

Sure, there are many possible reasons and explanations for it. Bubble basketball without fans and big arenas simply isn’t cutting it for some fans. Also Game 2 taking place on a Friday, a day with notoriously bad ratings for the NBA, and Game 3 being played on a Sunday directly competing with the NFL, is a reason for the bad ratings. The games are also played in a time of the year that normally does not feature NBA basketball. But this doesn’t tell the whole story. 

The historically bad ratings could also have been arisen by the politicization and therefore polarization of the NBA.

Players, coaches and staff members are kneeling for the playing of the national anthem; players are allowed to wear social justice-themed uniforms with messages on the back; there were game protests against racial injustice in America.

While I am a fan of all this, and hope that more organizations speak out against injustices and racism, like the NBA, others have bailed on the sport completely because of it.

But it isn’t all bad… while the TV ratings have indeed hit rock bottom, the NBA is flourishing in the ‘new media’ sector. The 2019-20 NBA season even set new digital media records, with total video views up 17% this past season, reaching over 20 billion. 

Per Front Office Sports:


NBA Bubble Social by the Numbers:

6.9 billion video views on social channels since July 30 restart.

2.6 billion video views on Instagram.

1 billion video views during the NBA Finals across platforms.

321 million YouTube views during the postseason, up 63% year-over-year.

61 million YouTube views during the NBA Finals, up 21%.


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