First week of NBA playoff ratings down 20 percent from last season

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The NBA playoffs inside the Orlando bubble averaged 1.875 million viewers for the first week, down 20 percent from last season, per data from RealGM and ShowBuzz Daily.

Industry insiders mostly chalk up the decline in viewership to the abnormal season, with games being played in August and often during the daytime hours, when television viewership is generally down across the board.

That said, SportsBusiness Daily reported in February that ratings for regular-season games had declined by 12 percent since the end of the 2018-19 season. That was during the NBA's normal calendar year and prior to the league suspending play because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Viewership data collected by ShowBuzz consisted of playoff games televised on ABC, ESPN and TNT from the week of Aug. 17-23. Games broadcast on NBA TV were not included in the data. 

Ratings were down 28 percent for the 18-49 demographic for the first week of the playoffs, the data revealed. But again, these numbers align with television ratings overall, which are reportedly down 19 percent from this time last year.

The NBA's national television contract expires soon, and at $2.6 billion, remains the league's largest stream of revenue. Lower ratings could impact the league's bargaining position when it's time to negotiate another TV deal.

Overall, the NBA has remained steady compared to other sports programming, and on par with MLB, but will have to go head-to-head with the mammoth NFL in less than a month.