The Golden State Warriors have been simply amazing this season. Their style of play is perfect for casual fans, they have been unstoppable at home, and they have the personalities of Steph Curry and Draymond Green to draw viewers from outside their market. It would be safe to assume that a dominant team and the league’s new fast-pace style of play would generate a television ratings increase, but that hasn’t been the case. National ratings have dropped and regional ratings for 15 teams have sunk as well –11 teams have seen increases, including the Warriors, Cavs and Spurs.
The problem is that those three are the only teams casual fans seem to be watching. Not many casual fans are interested seeing a fun but star-less Celtics squad going up against a disjointed Bulls team. The Lakers and Knicks are still big-market names, but are at the bottom of the standings. If some combination of the Warriors, Cavs, Spurs and Thunder aren’t playing each other on ESPN or TNT, people don’t watch. It seems like fans are just waiting for the playoffs to roll around to really tune in.
Even when Golden State plays on nationally televised games, tip-off is late because the Warriors play more than half their schedule on Pacific time. That cuts out more than half the country during the work week, and only die-hard fans are staying up past midnight Eastern time to watch Curry’s dominance. Add that the Warriors are limited in how many games the NBA can put on national TV, another obstacle in drawing in a national audience.
This will all probably change as the Warriors attempt to break the Bulls’ single-season win total, and will definitely change once the playoffs begin. Still, ratings are down, and it isn’t just cord cutters that are causing the drop. The Warriors could be great for basketball, but bad for TV ratings.