NBA Regular-Season Ratings Dipped in 2016-17

ABC, ESPN, and TNT saw NBA viewership decline slightly in the 2016-17 regular season, the first covered under a multi-billion-dollar contract extension between the league and its television partners that reaches through 2024-25.

National NBA telecasts across the three channels and cable network NBA TV averaged 1.19 million total viewers for the season ending on Wednesday — down 6% from the 2015-16 season, but even with the average from 2014-15. Under a new television deal, the three networks combined to broadcast 19 more games than last season.

The addition of more than a dozen and a half games — including 11 Monday-night games on TNT, which did not have a Monday-night telecast in 2015-16 — contributed to the downward tick in viewership. TNT, for example, averaged 1.5 million viewers, down 8% from last season. But when discounting the new Monday-night games, TNT was even with last season’s 1.7 million. (The additional games far outpaced the entertainment programming that TNT aired on comparable Monday nights last season.) Disney-owned ESPN and ABC averaged 1.9 million viewers, down 5% from last season, when they aired eight less games combined.

Increases in streaming viewership also contributed to television decreases. ESPN digital platforms averaged 45,000 viewers per minute, up 18% from 38,000 last season.

The 6% decline across networks was also in line with a general downward trend in live sports viewing, one that was compounded by last year’s presidential election campaign and the subsequent news cycles, which drove eyeballs to cable news programming. Viewership for the NFL, which has become accustomed to regular year-to-year growth, was down 8% in 2016 from the previous season. Network executives have also groused about the impact of NBA teams resting star players in late-season games — and removing the top attractions from telecasts.

Under a new contract that went into effect this season, ESPN, which produces the ABC telecasts, and TNT are paying a combined $2.66 billion per year to broadcast NBA games.

Heading into the playoffs, which begin Saturday, league and network officials can draw encouragement from high ratings for the NBA’s premiere regular-season events, including opening night and All-Star Game telecasts that were the most watched since 2013.

More TV

  • Pablo Guisa, Pablo Cruz, Enrique López

    Morbido, El Estudio Team on Massive Trans-Atlantic Genre Initiative (EXCLUSIVE)

    Trans-Atlantic Spanish-language production powerhouse El Estudio and Mexico’s Morbido Group have joined forces in the largest genre, horror and fantasy production initiative in the Spanish-speaking world. Feature films, series, remakes and reboots of classic IP and even unscripted programming are all part of the plan going forward for El Estudio and Morbido. Already, the companies [...]

  • Wolfsburg

    Italy's Cross Set for Werewolf Immigrant TV Series 'Wolfsburg' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Italy’s Cross Productions, in which Germany’s Beta Film has a stake, is shopping “Wolfsburg,” a high-end TV series which turns on an Italian immigrant who during the 1960s arrives in the German city of Wolfsburg, headquarters of Volkswagen Group, and morphs into a murderous werewolf. The innovative skein, now in advanced development, is being set up [...]

  • Lincoln Younes

    'Lost Boys' Pilot at CW Casts Lincoln Younes in Kiefer Sutherland Role

    The CW’s revamped (get it?) “Lost Boys” pilot has cast one of its lead roles. Lincoln Younes has been cast in the series as Benjamin, the charismatic leader of the gang of vampires in a seemingly idyllic North Carolina seaside town. Younes’ role is most similar to the role of David in the 1987 film [...]

  • Gary Levine and Jana Winograde Showtime

    Showtime, HBO Broaden Scope as Parent Companies Aim to Grow Their Audiences

    For years, the halo around premium cablers such as HBO and Showtime has been integral to their branding. Their parent companies in a past life — Time Warner and CBS, respectively — seemed to be content with the tens of millions of subscribers each had accumulated. But now, shepherded by new corporate owners — AT&T’s [...]

  • Josh Brolin Dune

    Josh Brolin to Lead Amazon Drama Series 'Outer Range'

    Josh Brolin has found his next role. The “Avengers” and “No Country for Old Men” star has signed on to play the lead role in “Outer Range,” a thriller which received a series order at Amazon. The show was announced as part of the TV overall deal that Amazon signed with Brad Pitt’s Plan B [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content