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NBA continues ratings struggles in first weekend of playoffs

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Ratings for broadcasts of NBA games remained shaky over the weekend, per Sports Media Watch, continuing a season-long trend of the league struggling to attract television viewers.

"Weekday afternoon games have certainly hurt, but the first weekend of the NBA Playoffs was no ratings bonanza either," according to Sports Media Watch

Compared to the last season, ABC's first playoff game of this season fell 23 percent in ratings and 21 percent in viewership.

"The Lakers’ win ranks as ABC’s least-watched playoff opener in five years (2015 Pelicans-Warriors: 3.49M), with the caveat that this year marked the first time since 2004 that it did not air a game on the opening day of the postseason," Sports Media Watch reported.

Overall, ratings for the playoffs are down 20 percent from last season, according to data collected from Real GM 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.

"All comparisons come with the disclaimer that this year’s NBA Playoffs is taking place four months later than originally scheduled, during a time of year in which fewer televisions are in use, and with the majority of games airing in unusual weekday afternoon timeslots," Sports Media Watch wrote.