The NBA’s ratings took a bit of a hit this postseason, and while it wasn’t impactful enough that there has been any rumblings of concern out of the league offices, it’s still less than ideal. It also just happened to be the first year that LeBron James played out on the West Coast, along with his first year missing the playoffs in more than a decade, and it’s not exactly a stretch to wonder if those things are related.
In the eyes of NBA commissioner Adam Silver, the theory that James going out west hurt ratings makes sense. The commish sat down with TODAY and, amid a number of other subjects, got asked about ratings.
“Face it, LeBron is one of the biggest stars in the world, and he also played in the East, and so the reason I look a little bit tired is a lot of our games are in the West, and it’s late at night, and I recognize most people choose to go to sleep at a reasonable time,” Silver said. “And so, from a rating standpoint, not having LeBron in the playoffs, not having him in the East, has clearly impacted ratings.”
Anecdotally, if you know basketball fans on the east coast, this theory makes a ton of sense. Basketball games tipping off at 10 or 10:30 p.m. is brutal, especially if you need to wake up the following morning to go to work. Silver is cognizant of this, too, and it’s something that he wants to address with teams during the offseason.
“It is something we can address,” Silver said. “We’re talking about it. I mean, it would obviously be less convenient to those fans on the West Coast if we played even earlier. I mean, just think about people getting to those arenas after work if you start a game at 6 p.m. local time in the West. It’s not the most convenient thing. It’s not as convenient for a television watcher on the West Coast, either. But when you look at the league from a national standpoint, it may make sense to play a little bit earlier in the West, and that’s something we’re going to talk to our teams about this summer.”
It’s a tough thing to balance — tipping games at times that make it easier for people to watch is good, but inconveniencing those who attend or play the game is an issue. Regardless, the league is in New York, nearly half of its teams are in the Eastern Time Zone (h/t Dan Feldman of NBC Sports), and as Silver mentions, 50 percent of television households are in the East, so perhaps it wouldn’t be a surprise if the league tries to change up when games tip out West sometime soon.