Adam Silver pins NBA ratings decline to star player injuries, illegal streaming
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was utterly transparent when speaking about the state of the league during the All-Star Weekend, noting the clear decline in viewership and TV ratings, the huge loss of at least $300 million in TV revenue from the China debacle earlier this season, and what can come down the pipe in the next few years.
Yet ratings have been down not only nationwide, but in local markets — something he noted was caused by the long-term injuries to star players and how the younger generation often resorts to illegal streaming.
“There are always going to be injuries in the league, and there are always going to be injuries, unfortunately, to star players. One of the things structurally we’re looking at is there’s very little flexibility when we set our schedule now,” said Silver during his All-Star Weekend press conference on Saturday, according to Kristian Winfield of The New York Daily News. “If you have, for example, a lot of Laker games last season with LeBron and he’s injured, that’s going to cause a problem in ratings.
“This year we had a lot of Warriors games early in the season and a lot of Pelicans games. So there are those issues, but I view those as short-term issues and not structural issues.”
The league has worked to “flex” some of these games of less interest and replace them for more interesting matchups. Yet even that doesn’t change the fact that the new generation of fans no longer relies on a cable subscription or a cut-the-cord affiliate to provide NBA games.
Sites like Reddit’s r/nbastreams have already been banned, yet the new culture of NBA watch parties is to do it through over-the-top streaming services.
“There are then some structural issues in the way our games are delivered, and it’s something that we’re working through with our media partners now,” he said. “For example, it’s well-known that on one hand we’re celebrated by some because we have such a young fan base, but that young fan base is disconnecting from pay television in record numbers, and by disconnecting, not just simply not subscribing to cable or so-called cutting the cord, they’re not watching traditional paid television the way they used to. They’re watching over-the-top streaming services. They’re watching screens, but it’s not essentially pay TV.”
Silver called this a fixable issue, but it is for sure one the league should address rather quickly if it is to gain some of its revenue.
The cost of NBA League Pass, a separate cost for NBA TV, and the intra-network affiliations of ABC, ESPN, and TNT have made it hard for viewers to get their NBA fix under one platform, hence why many resort to watching games through other means.