Adam Silver’s NBA is in the middle of a crisis.
No not the corona virus, although that may take away the playoff series we’ve been dreaming about for a year.
The problem Silver and NBA intelligentsia is facing is that of the cratering ratings. It’s bad people, don’t let the always pro NBA media fool you.
Unlike the NFL where the media is locked and loaded in anticipation of a slight slip up they can jump on and destroy the league for, basketball’s media is famously pro-league.
This however, is not the time for pro-league talk. Going into the all-star break, the NBA’s three biggest national TV partners had registered a double-digit viewer drop according to the Sporting Business Journal (SBJ).
Even locally, the numbers are anything but positive.
Fourteen of the 27 teams for which SBJ has data have had ratings declines, and the ratings for 13 of the 27 are down at least 19%.
So, what exactly is the plausible solution?
The answer comes from the Atlanta Hawks ownership group. For the NBA to improve its ratings, they need to change the schedule.
Right now, there’s about 25-30 games from October through December that go right against television’s ratings king, the NFL. Shows like First Take and Undisputed barely have time to use a segment talking basketball for almost a third of the season thanks to the NFL.
By starting the season on Christmas and finishing the playoffs in mid-August, the NBA gets away from the NFL and is able to dominate the national TV game from the Super Bowl to Labour Day.
The success of free agency is the blueprint for bringing people back to the games. Many are concerned about the lack of TV watched in the summer but here’s the thing, the amount the league is consumed in those months without even playing a game proves the availability of the summer.
No one watches baseball nationally anymore, especially in the dog days of summer and the ratings bare that out. Sports fans are desperate for content and it will allow the NBA to fill that void.
This is one of those decisions if it came to fruition, ten years later we’d be explaining to new fans why it used to be the old way and they’d never understand.
For a league that makes a lot of stink about being willing to try and impact change, what better way to do that than to change their schedule and take over the national audience?
Baseball used to be the one league’s feared but now? Hardly.
The NBA’s playoffs would crush baseball’s excessively long regular season and bring new life to a sport that needs to find a way to bring back attention to its games and not just the hoopla surrounding them.
Even internationally, by the time the playoffs would be ramping up, soccer’s biggest competitions would be over. This in it of itself should fascinate the league as it would create obvious opportunity for growth outside the borders of North America.
The only real reason not to do this is because we never have before.
For a commissioner like Adam Silver who prides himself on unique and new thinking, how could he possibly turn down this chance to solve his league’s biggest problem?