You would think that after a long, grueling slog through 1,200+ regular season basketball games, the NBA would cut to the chase and schedule a few playoff games in order to crown a championship team.
Not a chance… the NBA playoff format is practically a season unto itself. After an 82-game regular season schedule that stretches from November to the middle of April, a team entering the playoffs would have to play anywhere from 16 to 28 additional games in order to be crowned the eventual NBA Champion. Last season’s 2015 champion, the Golden State Warriors, had to play 21 post-season playoff games – that’s one-quarter of their entire regular season!
And as it has done for the past several years, ad-supported cable will be hosting the majority of playoff games, from the First Round to the Conference Finals. Last season, for example, TNT and ESPN accounted for 60% of all gross impressions (generated by first-run, live playoff games):
One clear pattern that has emerged year after year is that – as the playoffs unfold – and teams advance from one round to the next, fan anticipation grows and along with it higher and higher U.S. ratings. Both TNT and ESPN essentially doubled their ratings and shares from the First Round to the Conference Finals:
There’s always so much industry buzz about securing television sports rights… and for good reason. In a time of declining HUT (Homes Using Television) levels and the slow (but steady) migration of audiences to all things digital, major TV sporting events have been able to hold on to their respective audiences. And then some. Below are the ratings and shares for the NBA playoffs on TNT and ESPN over the past three years. Not only do advertisers benefit from reaching a highly engaged audience, but one that is growing as well:
Along with a growing, highly engaged audience, viewing to the NBA playoffs is decidedly upscale; indeed, the higher the household income, the higher the rating… it’s practically a straight-line relationship:
In the end, the most compelling NBA playoff ratings story occurs within the DMAs of hometown participating teams. In the Eastern Conference Finals, for example, which pitted the Atlanta Hawks against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the local Cleveland ratings were between five-to-seven times higher than the ratings nationwide:
Local Cable Advertising Demand
Local cable advertising demand for the NBA Playoffs has been nothing short of spectacular. Over the past two playoff years (2014 & 2015), over 700 Viamedia clients ordered nearly 30,000 :30-second spots across 71 Viamedia markets (essentially our entire national footprint.) That comes to 42 spots per client. And when we confine our analysis to the 61 Viamedia markets that exhibited advertising over the past two playoff years, we find advertisers increased their overall investment by 5% -- driven primarily by an increase in :30-second units.
(Source: Viamedia internal analysis of B.I.G.SM database (Sports & High Profile Tracker module.) Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
As is the case with practically every major sporting event on cable, the automotive category dominates the NBA Playoffs – 56% of total local cable dollars over the past two years (2014 & 2015). But unlike college and professional football, the NBA attracts a fairly healthy chunk of network tune-in dollars from both broadcast and cable networks alike – 9%:
West Coast Sizzle vs East Coast Fizzle
Last year’s NBA Champion – the Golden State Warriors – is on pace to break the record for the most wins in a regular season, which is held by the 1995-96 Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. As of this writing, the Warriors’ record stands at an amazing 66–7, so good luck to any team that has to face Steph Curry and the Warriors come April!
Back here in New York, we need more than luck with both the Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets playing a sad brand of basketball that will leave them far out of the playoffs. But that still leaves 16 teams in all that will make the playoffs come April 16th at which time fans across the country (and around the globe) will be treated to the very best in professional basketball.