The NBA is one of the biggest professional sports leagues in the world, and yet they still cannot seem to get it right when it comes to watching the games. Streaming deals, streaming services, and other leagues all play a part when it comes to the NBA’s viewership issue.
In my opinion, the biggest problem with the NBA’s viewership issue is the absolute mess that is NBA League Pass. League Pass is the NBA’s flagship streaming service that gives fans access to every NBA game anywhere at any time, except for the fact that it doesn’t. I myself am a subscriber to NBA League Pass, and there is nothing more annoying than clicking on the Cavs game that I am trying to watch, and then being greeted with a message that reads: “This game is blacked out in your local market.” Blackouts are a massive problem for the NBA. If you attempt to watch a game of a team that is in your local market on League Pass, you will only be able to watch it on the package that has broadcasting rights to that team.
It defeats the whole purpose of being able to watch your team if you don’t have cable, which an increasing amount of people do not have. Games that are broadcasted on ESPN and TNT are not available to be streamed either; the only option is ESPN+ or Max, the two streaming services that have the rights to the games.
Local and national blackouts have to end for fans who are paying for a service that should allow them to watch every game. It also becomes even more of a mess for the league when networks like Bally Sports are filing for bankruptcy. The streaming issue for the NBA is a big one and it needs to be fixed.
Another issue for the NBA is the overwhelming dominance of the NFL. With Thanksgiving coming up, many traditions come to mind, one of which is watching football. The NFL has owned Thanksgiving for a very long time now, being the sport that people almost exclusively watch on Turkey Day. Christmas was the holiday that belonged to the NBA for the longest time until recently, with the NFL making it apparent that it is trying to take over the sports market on Christmas. This year, the NFL will be playing three games on Christmas compared to the NBA’s five.
Time will tell what America decides to tune into that day, but numbers from last year show that far more people are watching football compared to basketball on Christmas. This is a huge problem for the league, as it no longer has a major holiday to tie itself to, something that has been key for both the NFL and NBA in the past. With the NFL now owning both major holidays in the sports market, the NBA takes another hit in viewership compared to its rival league. Even when the lights are brightest for the NBA they still cannot overcome their big brother in the NFL.
In 2020, the NBA Finals lined up with the NFL regular season because of the pandemic. Game 6 of the NBA Finals went head-to-head with Seahawks vs. Vikings on Sunday Night Football. The NFL doubled the NBA’s ratings numbers on a night when the Lakers won the NBA title and the NFL was playing a regular season game. When your top product can’t beat out the everyday norm for the NFL, there is a clear problem.
The NBA has done great work growing the game globally and expanding its markets to other countries. Still, there is plenty of work to be done fixing the many viewership problems.
Charlie Fadel is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to share your thoughts? Let Charlie know by emailing or tweeting him at @CharlieFadel or firstname.lastname@example.org.