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.
“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.
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.