NBA TV Ratings Down 15% as League Pushes Streaming Access

With several marquee players absent due to injury, the National Basketball Association’s 2019-20 season is off to an inglorious start.

NBA games on national TV drew an average of 885,000 viewers in the first eight weeks of the season, according to The Wall Street Journal, in contrast to 1 million during the previous-year period and 1.2 million two years ago.

The league cites a rash of injuries to big name players such as Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Zion Williamson for the downturn. Indeed, without Curry and Thompson, the former champion Golden State Warriors are dead last in the Western Conference with just nine wins.

Media analysts such as Rich Greenfield with Lightshed Partners contend viewers are diminishing for other reasons such declining pay-TV and increasing content alternatives.

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“There is no doubt that the talent in any season can push ratings up or down, but everyone is fighting a very, very difficult underlying trend, which is less people subscribing to TV,” Greenfield told WSJ. “And of the people who are subscribing to TV, they’re watching less and less every day.”

The NBA for the first time is selling its NBA TV streaming service without a requisite pay-TV contract. NBA TV, which affords subscribers live access to out-of-market games, costs $6.99 monthly or $59.99 annually.

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Launched in 1999 as a 24-hour cable channel, NBA League Pass began offering streaming video access to select games in 2006. It became available on Dish Network’s Sling TV online platform in 2018.

NBA TV Streaming Service Now Available as Standalone Product

With the 2019-20 NBA season about to start, the league for the first time is selling its NBA TV streaming service without a requisite pay-TV contract.

NBA TV, which affords subscribers live access to out-of-market games, costs $6.99 monthly or $59.99 annually, which comes out to $4.99 per month.

The league also offers NBA League Pass priced from $119.99 to $249.99 annually, which afford subs access to commercial free live streaming, archived games, condensed game replays, radio broadcasts, VR access and NBA Finals, among other features.

Launched in 1999 as a 24-hour cable channel, NBA League Pass began offering streaming video access to select games in 2006. It became available on Dish Network’s Sling TV online platform in 2018.

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Sony PlayStation Vue Could Lose HBO, Cinemax

As media distribution competition intensifies, existing carriage agreements are changing.

Sony’s online TV service PlayStation Vue warned on its website that it may soon lose WarnerMedia’s HBO, Cinemax and NBA TV, among other programming.

“Most of the programming/content you watch on PlayStation Vue is licensed from programmers for the right to air their networks/channels,” read the site. “Once these agreements near expiration, we enter into renewal discussions where we work hard to try and obtain the best value for our customers.”

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While Vue has license agreements with WarnerMedia through the end of the month, the AT&T subsidiary is reportedly looking for increased subscriber commitments from licensees.

Dish Network recently dropped HBO from its satellite and online service Sling TV due to the demands. CEO Charlie Ergen recently argued Dish users could subscribe to HBO Now separately if they wanted the programming he has no interest in subsidizing.

With Vue subscriptions reportedly trailing Sling, AT&T TV, YouTube TV, Sony is trying to streamline programming costs.

“Though infrequent, sometimes certain licenses will not be renewed, in which case PlayStation Vue would no longer carry the affected channels or networks,” read the site. “This section will be updated periodically to list channels and networks coming up for renewal.”