NBA television ratings up since boycott from players

By Vincent Frank
July 30, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, USA; A general view the court with Black Lives Matter written above the NBA logo is seen at center court prior to the game between the LA Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers at The Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

It was about this time last week that the NBA Playoffs stopped on a dime after players boycotted games due to ongoing racial division and police brutality in the United States.

By now, it’s already known that the stoppage of action coincided with an African-American man by the name of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by authorities in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The narrative surrounding teams making the decision to boycott games included a belief that television ratings and interest in the brand would shrink. That has not been the case.

NBA television ratings up since boycott from players

According to Sports Media Watch, the numbers are absolutely resounding. They tell us a story of renewed interest in the NBA.

  • Five of the 11-most watched games since the July 30 restart have come since the boycott ended.
  • Game 7 between the Rockets and Thunder Wednesday evening was the most-watched NBA game since Jan. 31 (first Lakers game since Kobe Bryant’s death). It was also the most-watched first-round playoff game on cable since 2018 and the most-watched first-round game on ESPN since 2017.
  • Viewership for Houston’s win over Oklahoma City increased 17% over the comparable window for last year’s playoff game — the Blazers and Nuggets.

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Despite the noise out there, those who have shown excessive interest in the NBA were not going to be turned off by the divisive boycotts.

On the other hand, those with differing political views, and who don’t have a rooting interest in the Association, likely found it easier to tune out the games.

Given how the NBA has become the league at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement, it stands to reason that a certain bloc of the general public was already tuning out ahead of the boycotts last week.

It will be interesting to see how the ratings look with all four NBA Playoff series now in the conference semifinals.