National Basketball Association on television

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As one of the major sports leagues in North America, the National Basketball Association has a long history of partnership with television networks in the US. The League signed a contract with DuMont in its 8th season (1953-54), marking the first year the NBA had a national television broadcaster. Similar to NFL, the lack of television stations leads to NBC taking over the rights beginning the very next season until April 7, 1962 - NBC's first tenure with the NBA. After the deal expired, Sports Network Incorporated (later known as the Hughes Television Network) signed up for two-year coverage in the 1962-63, 1963-64 season. ABC gained the NBA in 1964, the network aired its first NBA game on January 3, 1965, but lost the broadcast rights to CBS after the 1972-73 season with the initial tenure ending on May 10, 1973. As the national broadcaster of the NBA, CBS aired NBA games from the 1973-74 until the 1989-90 season, during which the early 1980s is notoriously known as the tape delay playoff era.

NBC then succeeded the broadcast rights from 1990 to 2002. During NBC's partnership with the NBA in the 1990s, the league rose to unprecedented popularity, with ratings surpassing the days of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in the mid 1980s. Upon expiration of the contract in 2002, the league signed an agreement with ABC, which began airing games in the 2002-03 season. NBC had made a four-year $1.3 billion ($330 million/year) bid in the spring of 2002 to renew its NBA rights, but the league instead went to ESPN and ABC with a six-year deal worth $2.4 billion ($400 million/year), a total of $4.6 billion ($766 million/year) when adding the cable deal with Turner Sports.[1] Partially due to the retirement of Michael Jordan, the league sufferd ratings decline after ESPN and ABC took over the rights. NBA extended its national TV package on June 27, 2007 worth eight-year $7.4 billion ($930 million/year) through 2015-16 season,[1] during which the league had its new resurgence leading by renewed Celtics–Lakers rivalry and LeBron James. On October 6, 2014, NBA announced a nine-year $24 billion ($2.7 billion/year) extension with ESPN, ABC and Turner Sports beginning with the 2016-17 season and running through the 2024-25 season[2] - the second most expensive media rights in the world after NFL and on a par with Premier League in annual rights fee from 2016-17 to 2018-19 season.[3]

NBA entered the cable territory in 1979 when USA Network signed a three-year $1.5 million deal and extended for two years until the 1983-84 season, ESPN also had a brief affair with NBA from 1982 to 1984. Turner Sports obtained rights to air NBA games beginning with the 1984-85 season (replacing ESPN and USA Network as national cable partners) under a four-year deal, in which TBS shared the NBA television package along with CBS. In the summer of 1987, Turner Broadcasting System signed a new joint broadcast contract between TBS and TNT to split broadcast NBA games starting from the 1988-89 season. TNT held rights to broadcast the NBA draft, most NBA regular season and playoff games, while TBS only aired single games or doubleheaders once a week. The 2001-02 season would mark the final year of regular NBA coverage on TBS, Turner Sports signed a new NBA television contract in which TNT would assume rights to the company's NBA package while TBS would discontinue game coverage altogether. In recent years however, TBS has served as an overflow feed during the playoffs while also simulcast both 2015 and 2016 All-Star Game. Subsequently ESPN regained the NBA in 2002-03 season and took over TBS's half of cable television rights.

Regular Season[edit]

Average rating per regular season game on broadcast networks
(1995–present)
Season Network Rating
2015-16 ABC 2.3
2014-15 ABC 2.2
2013-14 ABC 2.3
2012-13 ABC 2.9
2011-12 (lockout shortened) ABC 3.3
2010-11 ABC 3.0
2009-10 ABC 2.3
2008-09 ABC 2.3
2007-08 ABC 2.2
2006-07 ABC 2.0
2005-06 ABC 2.2
2004-05 ABC 2.3
2003-04 ABC 2.4
2002-03 ABC 2.6
2001-02 NBC 2.9
2000-01 NBC 3.0
1999-2000 NBC 3.3
1998-99 (lockout shortened) NBC 4.3
1997-98 NBC 4.6
1996-97 NBC 4.7
1995-96 NBC 5.0
Average viewership per regular season game in millions by networks
(2007–present)
Season ABC TNT ESPN NBA TV
2015-16 3.93M 1.68M 1.65M 0.35M
2014-15 3.59M 1.67M 1.50M 0.29M
2013-14 3.58M 1.90M 1.68M 0.32M
2012-13 4.70M 2.00M 1.77M 0.34M
2011-12 (lockout shortened) 5.42M 2.50M 1.86M 0.34M
2010-11 5.11M 2.40M 1.99M 0.25M
2009-10 3.69M 1.72M 1.56M ---
2008-09 3.68M 1.71M 1.68M ---
2007-08 3.18M 1.47M 1.47M ---

NBA on Christmas Day[edit]

Games on Christmas Day have drawn some of the biggest regular season audience. Since 2001, the most watched Christmas games were:

2004 Miami Heat vs Los Angeles Lakers on ABC averaged a 7.3 rating and 13.18 million viewers.

2010 Miami Heat vs Los Angeles Lakers on ABC averaged a 6.4 rating and 13.11 million viewers.

2015 Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors on ABC averaged a 5.7 rating and 11.12 million viewers.

Average rating/viewership per game for NBA on Christmas Day
(2001–present)
Year Network # of Games Rating Viewership
2015 ABC, ESPN 5 3.0 5.55M
2014 ABC, ESPN, TNT 5 2.8 5.22M
2013 ABC, ESPN 5 2.5 4.46M
2012 ABC, ESPN 5 3.1 5.50M
2011 (lockout shortened) ABC, ESPN, TNT 5 3.5 6.31M
2010 ABC, ESPN 5 3.2 6.00M
2009 ABC, ESPN 5 2.4 4.17M
2008 ABC, ESPN, TNT 5 2.5 4.43M
2007 ABC, ESPN 3 2.6 4.29M
2006 ABC 1 3.5 5.47M
2005 ABC 2 4.4 7.12M
2004 ABC, ESPN 2 5.2 8.92M
2003 ABC, ESPN 3 3.0 4.96M
2002 ABC, ESPN 3 2.8 4.52M
2001 NBC 2 3.2 4.99M

NBA All-Star Game[edit]

The NBA All-Star Game was on broadcast networks until 2002, TNT began airing the All-Star Game in 2003 which featured the last appearance of Michael Jordan in the event, TBS started simulcasting the game since 2015.

NBA All-Star Game TV ratings
(1990–present)
Year Network Results Rating/Share Viewership
2016 TNT, TBS West 196, East 173 4.3/7 7.61M
2015 TNT, TBS West 163, East 158 4.3/7 7.18M
2014 TNT East 163, West 155 4.3/7 7.51M
2013 TNT West 143, East 138 4.6/8 8.02M
2012 TNT West 152, East 149 4.4/7 7.07M
2011 TNT West 148, East 143 5.2/9 9.09M
2010 TNT East 141, West 139 3.8/6 6.85M
2009 TNT West 146, East 119 4.5/7 7.62M
2008 TNT East 134, West 128 3.8/6 6.33M
2007 TNT West 153, East 132 4.2/7 6.84M
2006 TNT East 122, West 120 4.3/8 7.07M
2005 TNT East 125, West 115 4.9/8 8.08M
2004 TNT West 136, East 132 5.1/10 8.19M
2003 TNT West 155, East 145 6.6/12 10.83M
2002 NBC West 135, East 120 8.2/15 13.10M
2001 NBC East 111, West 110 5.1/8 7.76M
2000 NBC East 137, West 126 6.9/12 10.52M
1999 Cancelled due to owners' Lockout
1998 NBC East 135, West 114 10.6/17 16.93M
1997 NBC East 132, West 120 11.2/19 16.90M
1996 NBC East 129, West 118 11.7/20 17.46M
1995 NBC West 139, East 112 10.7/17 15.78M
1994 NBC East 127, West 118 9.1/14 13.67M
1993 NBC West 135, East 132 14.3/22 22.91M
1992 NBC West 153, East 113 12.8/26 18.83M
1991 NBC East 116, West 113 7.8/21 10.61M
1990 CBS East 130, West 113 9.5/13 13.20M

NBA Playoffs[edit]

Ever since NBC lost the rights, the Conference Finals have been on cable networks almost exclusively with TNT and ESPN alternating coverage each year.

Most watched NBA games on cable networks
Year Network Game Rating Viewership
2016 TNT Oklahoma City Thunder vs Golden State Warriors WCF Game 7 8.9 16.00M
2012 ESPN Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat ECF Game 7 7.7 13.35M
2013 TNT Indiana Pacers vs Miami Heat ECF Game 7 7.1 11.57M
2011 TNT Miami Heat vs Chicago Bulls ECF Game 1 6.2 11.11M
2012 ESPN Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics ECF Game 6 6.8 11.07M
2012 ESPN Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics ECF Game 4 6.8 11.07M
2011 TNT Chicago Bulls vs Miami Heat ECF Game 3 6.4 10.89M
2016 TNT Golden State Warriors vs Oklahoma City Thunder WCF Game 6 6.2 10.81M
2011 TNT Miami Heat vs Chicago Bulls ECF Game 5 6.4 10.41M
2012 ESPN Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat ECF Game 5 6.3 10.25M

NBA Finals[edit]

Most watched NBA Final games on ABC
Year Game Rating/Share Viewership
2016 Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors Game 7 15.8/29 31.02M
2010 Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers Game 7 15.6/27 28.20M
2013 San Antonio Spurs vs Miami Heat Game 7 15.3/26 26.32M
2011 Dallas Mavericks vs Miami Heat Game 6 13.3/23 23.88M
2015 Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers Game 6 13.4/24 23.25M
2004 Los Angeles Lakers vs Detroit Pistons Game 5 13.8/23 21.84M
2015 Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors Game 5 11.8/21 20.86M
2016 Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers Game 6 11.8/22 20.70M
2013 San Antonio Spurs vs Miami Heat Game 6 12.3/21 20.64M
2016 Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors Game 5 11.8/21 20.53M

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b John Lombardo & John Ourand (October 13, 2014). "Fast break: NBA media rights". SportsBusiness Daily. Retrieved June 17, 2016. 
  2. ^ Paulsen (October 6, 2014). "NBA Announces 9-Year Extension With ESPN, Turner, Through 2025". Sports Media Watch. Retrieved June 17, 2016. 
  3. ^ BBC Sports (February 10, 2015). "Premier League TV rights: Sky and BT pay £5.1bn for live games". BBC Sport. Retrieved June 17, 2016. 

External links[edit]