October 25th marks the beginning of the 71st NBA regular season – a quintessential “American” game that was invented by a Canadian gym teacher in order to keep his unruly students occupied during the long, dreary New England winters. I doubt the father of basketball -- James Naismith -- would even recognize his invention today, which began in 1891 with two peach baskets (their bottoms hollowed out) and a no-dribble rule! Nor would he believe that his game is played in practically every gymnasium in the United States (not to mention around the entire globe), and played by very large people who can sky way above the rim.
Welcome to the NBA regular season, where the most talented players in the world play a combined 1,200 games over a 5+ month period – and all of that as just a prelude to a 4-round playoff format in which the ultimate champion will have to play anywhere from 16 to 28 additional post-season games. And covering several games week-in and week-out is ad-supported cable TV led by a slew of regional networks and two national ones -- ESPN and TNT, which have been covering the games since 1983 and 1988 respectively. Collectively, these two network mainstays aired ~130 national games last season, delivering ratings and shares similar to the prior season (2015-16), which is no mean feat when Live TV viewing has declined in light of increased digital and DVR usage:
Premium Local Market Ratings
As is the case with other sports we’ve blogged about in this space, there is a significant divergence in local market ratings when a market’s local NBA team participates in a national telecast. It is practically a guarantee that local market ratings will soar past the national average. On TNT, for example, the October 27th, 2015 match-up between the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls pulled down a 2.73 national rating. In the Cavaliers home market of Cleveland, the local rating was 7-times higher (19.70), while in Chicago the rating was 4-times higher (11.61):
Regional Cable Networks
Although ESPN & TNT are the two most highly visible networks, they are hardly alone. At the national level, NBA-TV and ESPN2 carry NBA games, while at the regional level, a variety of channels carry numerous games. Over the past two seasons, for example, Viamedia clients invested in over 280 NBA basketball games of which nearly 60% of them were carried on regional cable networks:
Race & Ethnicity
With over 70% of the NBA comprised of African-American players, it is no surprise that the NBA attracts a large African-American audience. Last season, ESPN & TNT together delivered an average rating of 2.76 against African-American households, doubling the national average of 1.35. But what is surprising is the relatively high NBA rating for Asian-American homes which typically view less television overall than any other major ethnic group. And, yet, their 1.70 NBA rating is 27% higher than the national average:
Local Cable Advertising
Local cable advertising demand for NBA Basketball has been very strong. Over the past two regular seasons, 80 advertisers ordered nearly 21,000 30-second spots across 68 Viamedia local markets (practically our entire nationwide footprint.) That comes to an average of almost 26 spots per advertiser. Source: Viamedia analysis of B.I.G. internal database (“Sports & High Profile Tracker”.) Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Baby You Can Drive My Car
Apologies to the Beetles, but their hit song from the 1960s came to mind after looking at category-level spending patterns for NBA basketball. Nearly 60 cents on the dollar fell to the Automotive Category over the past two NBA Regular Seasons. That’s nearly double the amount we typically see for Automotive company-wide (across all programming.) No other category comes close to that sort of over-representation:
There are several storylines leading into the 2016-17 NBA regular season, beginning with the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Last season, the Warriors grabbed hold of the best season record ever in NBA history, winning 73 out of 82 games. But with an injured Steph Curry, the Warriors were denied a second straight NBA title by the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers, which who won its first-ever NBA Championship. Will these two teams meet again in the 2017 NBA finals? I wouldn’t bet against them. Closer to home (here in New York) our questions are much more mundane, such as: Will the Knicks or Nets ever return to .500 basketball, never mind the playoffs? The Knicks will get a quick read on the team’s progress as they open the NBA season against the Champion Cavaliers. Good luck with that. And so it goes, questions abound for all 30 NBA teams that will only be answered in the upcoming 71st NBA basketball season.