Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, Warriors put NBA in strong media rights position

Memphis Grizzlies’ No. 12 Ja Morant makes a layup for the Golden State Warriors during the second half of Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals of the NBA Playoffs at the Chase Center in San Francisco, California on May 7, 2022 .

Thearon W. Henderson | Getty Images

The NBA is in a strong position as it recovers from the pandemic and prepares for the next media rights cycle in the years ahead. Playoff viewership increased, but teams in the New York and Los Angeles markets didn’t have much involvement. The league’s biggest star, LeBron James, also didn’t make the playoffs.

Viewers are watching the Golden State Warriors, who are back in championship contention after missing the playoffs last year. The Boston Celtics are also attracting a lot of data as the storied franchise looks to add an 18th title to its arena rafters. Electric young stars Ja Morant and Luka Doncic have also helped NBA playoff ratings recover after a two-year slump caused by the pandemic.

“The NBA is no longer dependent on one or two teams,” said Neal Pilson, a longtime sports media executive. “They’re no longer dependent on the main marketing team. It’s a testament to strength.”

NBA Finals start earlier this week Warner Bros Discovery Property Turner Sports and disney– Owns ABC and ESPN networks. With an early Finals matchup, the playoffs network averaged 3.7 million viewers, a 14 percent increase from 2021.

More than 6 million people watched Game 1 of the 2022 Western Conference Finals between the Warriors and Dallas Mavericks. ESPN also reported that roughly 6 million viewers watched the Celtics’ first and second games against the Miami Heat. NBA uses metrics from measurement companies Nelson its viewership statistics.

The NBA’s $24 billion deal with ESPN and Turner ends after the 2024-25 season. Speculation about whether the NBA will embrace streaming services in the next round of deals.

The league will be strong, thanks in large part to its young stars.

Pierson, the former president of CBS Sports, pointed to the NBA’s team balance and promotion of young stars as one reason fans are showing interest. He said the Memphis Grizzlies’ Morant and Dallas’ Doncic put the NBA in a “healthy position” for a lucrative rights deal.

The 22-year-old Morant’s popularity helped the Memphis Grizzlies reach their most-watched playoff series ever. The Grizzlies-Warriors series averaged 5.9 million viewers over six games. That included the 7.7 million viewers who watched Game 1 — the most-watched game of the playoffs to date.

Morant missed the final three games of the series due to injury. But he’s expected to return next season, so hopefully the national network will air more Grizzlies games.

Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks handles the ball during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals of the 2022 NBA Playoffs on May 18, 2022 at the Chase Center in San Francisco, California.

Noah Graham | NBA | Getty Images

Doncic, 23, led the Mavs to a Game 7 victory over the top-seeded Phoenix Suns on Sunday. That game was watched by an average of 6.3 million viewers, making it the fifth-most-watched playoff game of the year.

“You can put Memphis and Dallas together and attract an audience,” Pearson said, adding that the NBA “doesn’t depend on the Lakers and certainly not on the Knicks.”

However, the league will be put to the test during the NBA Finals in June.

In 2021, when the Milwaukee Bucks and their superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo beat the Suns, the NBA Finals averaged 9.9 million viewers. That’s up from the 7.5 million viewership average for the 2020 NBA Finals, when James and the Lakers played in front of an empty arena in the Covid-19 bubble in Orlando. But that was also down from the 15.1 million viewers who watched the 2019 NBA Finals between the Warriors and Toronto Raptors.

Of the rest of the teams, the Heat-Mavericks final probably won’t attract the top ratings as the Celtics-Warriors or Celtics-Mavericks series. But Pearson said the remaining star players, including Warriors superstar Stephen Curry, are still good enough to attract a large audience. The Celtics’ 24-year-old top star Jayson Tatum has also gotten a boost this postseason.

“There are more NBA teams now that can support the Finals in terms of players and viewership than it was 10 years ago,” he said. “It’s waterfront property – sports are driving the TV economy. That’s why rights are expensive and sponsors have to pay high fees.”

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) is fouled in the first quarter by Miami Heat forward PJ Tucker (17). The Miami Heat host the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena on May 19, 2022 in Miami, Florida.

Matthew J. Lee | Boston Globe | Getty Images

At an NBA Board of Governors meeting in New York in April, league commissioner Adam Silver said it was “premature” to consider adding new partners to the next copyright deal, and he did say the NBA was closely Keep an eye on the rights market — especially as tech giant Apple is now paying to stream sports on its Apple TV+ service.

“The discussions we’re having now are more about forecasting and where the media market is going,” Silver said. “I think we’re going to continue to see a shift in rights on a lot of traditional services to streaming services. And that’s where consumers are going, frankly.”

But how the NBA packages those rights is unknown. This spring, Apple struck a deal with Major League Baseball, expressing interest in getting into the sports media business. Amazon is already in business with the NBA because it broadcasts WNBA games.

“I think that’s where the media in this country is going,” Silver said. “People want personalization. They want customization.”

He added that streaming platforms offer sports fans “flexibility and attributes that may not be found through traditional, satellite and cable transmissions”.

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