The NBA's tv ratings are down this season, thanks in part to LeBron James' decision to leave the East coast and his Lakers' inability to make the playoffs. According to Sports Media Watch, regular season games across ESPN and ABC averaged about the same as last year, but TNT averages were down 12% from last season.
During an appearance on The Today Show, NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed the tv ratings decline, and admitted "not having LeBron in the playoffs, not having him in the East, has clearly impacted ratings."
Silver explains (H/T Yahoo Sports):
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. And so, from a rating standpoint, not having LeBron in the playoffs, not having him in the East, has clearly impacted ratings.
Silver is also considering moving up the start of West coast games because 50% of television households in the country are in Eastern time zones. Earlier tipoff times would be great news for everyone on the East coast who has struggled to make it past halftime of the Western Conference playoff games, but it wouldn't be ideal for West coasters.
Fifty percent of television households in this country are in the Eastern time zone. And so if your West Coast games start at 10:30 at night in the East, you’re invariably going to lose a lot of viewers around 11, 11:30. I mean, you can just chart it. You see how many television households turn off around 11:15, 11:30 at night, just because people have to get up for work in the morning.
I mean, it is something we can address. 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.
You can listen to the commissioner's comments regarding the decline in ratings at about the 20:00 mark in the video embedded below.