Later first week of season leads to higher opening week TV ratings for NBA
The later start to the 2020-2021 NBA season has produced higher opening week ratings compared to last year.
NBA television ratings are up significantly compared to the start of the 2019 season, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Ratings for opening week on ESPN, ABC and TNT are up 67 percent compared with the first week of the 2019-20 season. In addition, TNT’s opening night telecasts of Golden State-Brooklyn and the Clippers-Lakers matchup were the most-watched opening-night telecasts since 2017, averaging 2.9 million viewers.
Last year’s opening week took place in late October, while this year’s took place Christmas week, which likely plays a large role in the big difference.
The three Christmas day games simulcast on ABC and ESPN saw drops in viewership numbers, but the earliest and latest games, which were ESPN-only, saw higher numbers compared to 2019.
Some within the NBA long wanted to delay the start of the season so that the league competes less with the NFL for ratings. This season will give them a chance to try out the new schedule. So far, it appears to be helping.