Black Viewers Bolster NBA Playoff Ratings

People of color are tuning into the game in large numbers

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(Image: National Basketball Association)

Last week, Nielsen released the numbers reflecting what black households were tuning into on cable TV for the previous week, and reports show the NBA dominates the vast majority of the top 25.

The first round of the NBA Playoffs, airing exclusively on cable networks TNT and ESPN, showed that 48.5 percent of all viewers were black fans. The NBA, with it’s constantly changing landscape and storylines, is benefiting from a particularly exciting post season that features the return of a healthy Derrick Rose, the 2011 NBA MVP that’s been sidelined by injury after injury; the return of NBA Champion and former league MVP Lebron James to Cleveland, after a particularly bad break up when he took his talents to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami; and exciting young teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, and Golden State Warriors.

This excitement of the 2015 postseason follows a turbulent 2014 that was in large part headlined by current playoff teams like the Los Angeles Clippers and Atlanta Hawks baring the brunt of national media – after high level executives for both teams came under fire for racist remarks and actions.

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Claiming 15 of the 25 spots for the week, the NBA playoffs in full swing was still no match for the runaway hit reality show ‘Love and Hip Hop’ airing on Vh1, which topped the list and drew in over 3 million viewers for one episode. The NBA however, airing 11 games for the week, drew in 15.2 million total viewers, compared to ‘Love and Hip Hop’, which with 4 episodes for the week only drew in a total of 7.4 million viewers. Between the two shows, they made up a majority of Nielsen’s Top 25 most popular shows in black households combining to draw over 22 million of the estimated 36 million viewers.

As the NBA continues to expand its global influence, hosting camps in Cuba and exhibition games in Africa, it’s also locked into competition with other major US sports league like the NFL and MLB for rating supremacy. An ESPN report notes that it’s the 3rd most popular of the four major US leagues, behind the NFL which 35% of fans claim as their favorite, and the MLB that boasts 14% of fans. The NBA with it’s 6% of fans, is only slightly above the NHL’s 5%.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has stated publicly that his hope is for the NBA to eventually grow into a rival for the NFL which dominates fans attention. In one of his first broadcast after taking over for previous commissioner David Stern, Silver was quoted saying, “As much as we talk about international […] I still think there’s an enormous opportunity in the United States. […] I think this game should be a rival to football. In the United States, it’s the No. 1 participatory sport. We’ve all played it. I want to focus on the game. The business is going well, but this is a beautiful game.”

Round 2 of the playoffs began this past Sunday and as the drama unfolds, only time will tell if the NBA can maintain it’s hold on fans, particularly their black audience.


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