Here’s a Better Explanation for the NBA’s Huge Drop in Ratings

The NBA may be seeing its most exciting season in years. With the Warriors on hiatus and new teams stepping up for title contention, the season’s outcome is more up for grabs than it’s been in years. Despite the intrigue, however, the league is seeing a drop in ratings. Fans aren’t watching in droves as they have in the past. 

Many people have theorized about why the NBA is facing this issue. Some explanations make more sense than others. 

Many injuries among NBA stars

Variety wrote about the NBA’s ratings drop and tried to place a finger on why. One major factor could be injuries. In a season flooded with speculation about load management, the league is also facing injuries to many of its biggest stars.

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Victor Oladipo, Zion Williamson, and other big-name players have either missed the whole season or played in very few games.

As of the Variety article, 22 of 35 games aired on ESPN and TNT saw injuries to star players. For casual fans, this could be enough to make them turn off their televisions. 

Big-name NBA stars getting political

Conservative publication The Daily Wire theorized that the NBA’s ratings drop is not because of injuries or anything on the court; it’s due to how the players present themselves off the court. James, Curry, and several big-name players have become increasingly outspoken about not only political issues but hot-button ones regarding race. 

Teams are getting involved too. One example: The Sacramento Kings have partnered with Black Lives Matter. Some people view sports as an escape from politics and real-world problems, so this theoretically could hurt the NBA. However, sports have often been political, so any effect this has is likely minimal. 

No superstar Steph Curry

Related to the injuries but more precise, Blue Man Hoop theorized that NBA ratings come down to one specific player, Stephen Curry. It’s undeniable that there’s been no bigger factor in the league’s recent trend toward the three-point shot than Curry. He’s one of the league’s biggest draws

Fans of Curry are not likely to watch a cellar-dwelling Warriors team missing its star player, and the Warriors still have a lot of national appearances on the NBA schedule. Curry’s absence, however, doesn’t explain the drop in other NBA games.

Fans dropping cable TV

Of course, there can’t be national NBA discourse without Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban chiming in. According to a tweet by Cuban, a big reason behind the NBA’s ratings drop involves cord-cutting. People are bypassing cable in favor of watching TV on their devices. Without a cable subscription, it is harder to watch games. 

However, as many pointed out when Cuban tweeted this theory, cord-cutting has occurred for many years. Most networks that air NBA games have digital options. This would not explain the rapid decline from last season to this one. 

Maybe the NBA’s ratings drop doesn’t matter

Commissioner Adam Silver discussed the state of the league on Christmas Eve. While he acknowledged that the ratings are down, he believes the numbers may be lying a little bit.

“I’m not concerned [about the drop],” Silver said, according to Awful Announcing. “In terms of every other key indicator that we look at that measures the popularity of the league, we’re up. We’re up in attendance over a record-setting high from last year. Social media engagement remains in the magnitude of 1.6 billion people … Our League Pass viewership is up. Our merchandising sales are up.”

As the NBA figures out its ratings problems, there are several possibilities big and small. At the end of the day, however, Silver does not seem too concerned. While interest might be down, the NBA is going nowhere and the on-court product remains strong.

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