Sports television ratings have sunk for many reasons. Politics became the most intriguing competition. There are no work water-cooler gatherings to talk sports. There’s less need to chill out to a game when you’re home all day.
Television viewership in general is down by millions but sports ratings are taking the hardest hit as leagues, outside the NFL, broke timing routines. NBA playoff viewership dropped 37% and the NBA Finals were down 49%, according to Sports Media Watch.
No sport was immune. The NHL playoffs dropped 37% and there was a 61% drop for the Stanley Cup Finals. MLB Division Series plummeted by 40% with a 26% fall for the regular season. The U.S. Open, whether it was tennis (-45%) or golf (-42%), suffered. College football ratings are down 30%. Horse racing’s Triple Crown fell 32% (Kentucky Derby) and 56% (Preakness Stakes). Even the NFL slipped, although not as poorly at -13% with the normality of fall Sunday games.
The NBA had its least-watched NBA Finals ever. It was not helped by having to go head to head with Sunday Night Football once and losing build-up with 29 playoff games that tipped off before 4 p.m. PST.
An NBA seeding game (1.2 million viewers) still did better than the MLB regular season average (749,000). Black Lives Matter messaging was often blamed for the NBA drop but Sports Media Watch said the racial viewership breakdown was nearly identical.
“This is the first time in years that I haven’t watched a single game in the NBA Finals. #GoWokeGoBroke” Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted, upsetting Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban that Cruz rooted against a league with three Texas franchises.
One sliver of good news: ESPN attracted a lot of eyeballs across all demographics for their cornhole coverage. Of course, there was literally nothing else to watch. But a positive trend is a positive trend.