The Golden State Warriors are off to a historical start and that has translated into strong ratings locally and nationally. The winning streak will end, but that doesn’t mean the Warriors’ ratings will drop, especially if they makes a run at the Bulls’ record of 72 wins. The ratings success should continue due to the team’s star power — with Steph Curry and Draymond Green — and style of play. The fact that the Warriors out-rated the earlier Thanksgiving Day game of Spurs vs. Pelicans is interesting because the ratings generally drop in the second game due to its late Eastern time zone start. It would be smart for the NBA’s television partners to flex as many Warrior games as possible into that later time slot.
That could mean less exposure for teams such as the Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Blazers, Jazz, and Suns that occupy the Pacific and Mountain time zones. If ratings tick up when the Warriors play, but go down when those other teams have nationally televised games, it makes sense to flex the Warriors into the national spot. It benefits the league because more people are getting exposure to the NBA product and to the networks because they can sell more eyeballs to advertisers.
The NBA must walk a fine line when shifting games because the Lakers are still a national team even with their struggles, the Clippers have championship hopes, and the Blazers, Jazz and Suns are filled with young talent. But the Warriors are ratings gold right now, poised to be a national draw for years to come. For now, TNT and ESPN should ride the wave of Golden State’s win streak, but if it continues the networks may put pressure on the NBA to flex the Warriors into more games at the expense at the other teams west of the Mississippi.
Michael Colangelo is Managing Editor of The Fields of Green and Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.