After months of no sporting events, many believed that fans would be flocking to their televisions in droves to watch live sports. However, that has yet to be the case, especially for the NBA, where its TV ratings are actually down during the pandemic.
Over the first week of the 2020 NBA playoffs, ESPN, ABC, and TNT averaged 1.875 million TV viewers per game. As of Aug. 25, the NBA playoffs were down 20% compared to 2019, according to Real GM. Ratings were down 28% for the coveted 18-49 demographic for the first week of the playoffs, according to ShowBuzzDaily.
The NBA has played some weekday afternoon games, which have hurt ratings, but even prime time night games are not attracting viewers like they once did.
"Compared to ABC's first playoff game last year, Clippers-Warriors Game 1 on a Saturday night, ratings fell 23% (from 3.0) and viewership 21% (from 4.83M)," Sports Media Watch reported. "The Lakers' win ranks as ABC's least-watched playoff opener in five years (2015 Pelicans-Warriors: 3.49M)."
Last week, the NBA postponed three days of playoff games to give time to players and fans to reflect on the police shooting death of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Saturday's elimination Game 5 between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers managed to only attract 2.92 million viewers and a 1.8 rating. On the same day, more people watched NASCAR than the Lakers' series-clinching win. The NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona drew 3.87 million viewers and earned a 2.4 rating.
"Versus the comparable window last year, ratings fell 35% and viewership 30% from Game 1 of a Sixers-Raptors semifinal (1.95, 3.08M). Keep in mind last year's game aired exclusively on TNT," according to Sports Media Watch.
President Donald Trump noticed the ratings drop in the NBA and voiced his opinion on the topic on Twitter.
"People are tired of watching the highly political @NBA," he tweeted. "Basketball ratings are WAY down, and they won't be coming back. I hope football and baseball are watching and learning because the same thing will be happening to them. Stand tall for our Country and our Flag!!!"
A new poll found that President Trump could be right about mixing political and social justice issues with sports. A new Harris Poll found that 38% of sports fans say they're watching fewer games because the NBA has "become too political." Republicans were more likely to turn off the NBA, as 57% said the NBA was "too political," compared to 22% of Democrats, according to Forbes.
The survey of nearly 2,000 people from over the weekend also found 28% of respondents were watching fewer sports because it was "boring without fans." The poll discovered that 19% of people were not watching the NBA because of the league's friendly association with China. Broken down by party lines, 36% of Republicans said they weren't watching the NBA because of close ties to China, versus 8% for Democrats.