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


Ja Morant 12 of the Memphis Grizzlies goes to the basket against the Golden State Warriors, in the second quarter of Game Three, Western Conference Semifinals, NBA Playoffs, Chase Center. It took place on May 7, 2022, in San Francisco.

Thearon Henderson, Getty Images| Getty Images

As it recovers from the pandemic, the NBA is now in a good position and will be gearing up for the media rights cycle. Without much participation by teams from large markets like New York City and Los Angeles, playoff viewers increased. LeBron James is not the league’s most popular star.

The Golden State Warriors are back in title contention, and viewers have been tuning in to see them. In addition to the Boston Celtics, which is looking to add 18th titles to their arena rafters, big numbers are being drawn to Boston by this storied team. The NBA’s playoff ratings have recovered after the two-year slump caused by the pandemic.  

Neal Pilson, long-time sports media executive said “The NBA doesn’t depend on one or 2 teams.” “They are not dependent on the major markets.” This is a sign of strength.

This week, the NBA conference finals began earlier in this week Warner Bros. DiscoveryTurner Sports and properties DisneyBoth the ABC and ESPN networks are owned by NBC. Postseason matches are seen by an average of 3.7 million people per week, an increase of 14% compared with 2021.

The 2022 Western Conference Finals saw more than 6,000,000 people watch game 1 between the Dallas Mavericks and the Warriors. ESPN reports that approximately 6 million viewers watched games one and two in the Celtics-Miami Heat series. Measurement companies provide metrics for the NBA. NielsenFor its viewing stats.

After the 2024-25 campaign, NBA’s $24Billion deal with Turner and ESPN ends. There is speculation that the NBA may embrace streaming services during the next round.

Because of the league’s young stars, it will be able to compete in a large way.

Pilson was a former president for CBS Sports. He pointed out the NBA’s balance team and young star promotion as reasons why fans are becoming more interested. He said that the NBA was in a healthy position for a lucrative rights agreement because of Dallas’ Doncic and Morant from Memphis Grizzlies. 

Morant’s popularity at 22 helped to lead the Memphis Grizzlies into their most-watched playoff series. Over six games, the average viewership for the Grizzlies’ series against Warriors was 5.9 million. That included 7.7 million viewers who watched game one – the highest-rated game in the playoffs so far. 

Morant had to miss the three final games due to injury. However, he is expected to be back next season. Expect more Grizzlies games on national television networks. 

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

Noah Graham | NBA | Getty Images

Doncic (23 years old) led the Mavericks into a win against the Phoenix Suns, in Game 7. The game attracted 6.3 millions viewers on average and was the fifth most watched in the playoffs.

Pilson stated that “you can put Memphis or Dallas on and get an audience,” and added that the NBA was “not dependent upon the Lakers” and “certainly not dependent on Knicks.”

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

When the Suns lost to the Milwaukee Bucks, their hero Giannis Antitokounmpo defeated them, they averaged 9.9million viewers per NBA Finals. This is an increase from the 7.5 million viewers who watched the 2020 NBA Finals. In which James and his Lakers played in front of an empty arena, the Orlando Covid bubble was virtually empty. It’s still a lot lower than the 15.1million viewers that watched the NBA Finals with Warriors and Toronto Raptors in 2019. 

A Heat-Mavs Final might not attract the same viewership as a Celtics Warriors or Celtics Mavs series. Pilson stated that the star players remaining, such as Warriors’ superstar Stephen Curry would be sufficient to attract a large audience. Jayson Tatum (the Celtics’ top player at 24 years old) has seen his profile rise in this postseason.

He said, “There are many more NBA teams that can support Finals in terms athletes and ratings now than there were 10 year ago.” “It’s beachfront property – sports is driving the television economy. Sponsors have to be willing and able to afford high-end rights fees.

P.J. Wilson fouled Marcus Smart, a Boston Celtics player (36) Tucker (17), during the first half. The Boston Celtics will host the Miami Heat during the second quarter of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, which takes place at FTX Arena in Miami on May 19, 2022.

Boston Globe | Boston Globe | Getty Images

At the NBA’s board of governors meeting April in New York, league commissioner Adam Silver said it’s “premature” to contemplate adding new partners in the next rights deal, he did say the NBA was closely monitoring the rights marketplace – particularly as tech behemoth Apple is now spending to show sports on its Apple TV+ service. 

Silver stated that the discussions now being held have less to do with forecasts and how the market will develop. Silver stated, “I believe we will continue to see the morphing and reorganization of many of these rights that were previously on traditional services to streaming service. This is, quite frankly, where the consumer will be going.

The NBA is still deciding how to package these rights. Apple expressed its desire to get into the media industry by signing a deal in spring for MLB rights. Amazon has already partnered with the NBA to stream WNBA games.

Silver said, “I feel that’s what media in the country is heading.” People want customization. “People want individualization.” 

He said that streaming platforms offer “flexibility” and other attributes to sports fans, which are not possible through traditional satellite or cable delivery.