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Airball: NBA All-Star Game Falls to Historic TV Lows

  • TV viewership was down 27% from last year.
  • Game was nearly lapped in viewership by Sunday’s Daytona 500.
LeBron James slams ball during the lowest rated NBA-All Star Game.
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This year’s NBA All-Star Game was the “worst basketball game ever played,” said Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone. Television viewers seemed to agree as the game sank to its worst-ever viewership levels.

Team Giannis’ 184-175 victory over Team LeBron averaged 4.6 million viewers across Warner Bros. Discovery Sports’ TNT/TBS channels.

That’s down 27% from last year’s All-Game. And a 22% drop from the previous TV low of 5.9 million viewers in 2021. 

The game was nearly lapped by Fox Sports’ coverage of the Daytona 500, which averaged 8.2 million viewers on Sunday afternoon.

“The NBA All-Star Game was an airball in the ratings, falling to easily its smallest audience on record,” noted Sports Media Watch.

In contrast, the 1993 All-Star Game with the likes of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Charles Barkley grabbed a record 22.91 million viewers on NBC.

There were several factors for the steep drop this year.

Superstars Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Zion Williamson didn’t play.

NBA stars don’t seem to care about the All-Star Game anymore. There was almost no defense played during the game. If players are apathetic, then viewers will be too. 

“The game was unwatchable,” said one TV talent, who declined to be named.

Stephen A. Smith, the voice and face of NBA media rights partner ESPN, laid into players for their embarrassing performance.

“There was no effort whatsoever…It just reeks of a level of arrogance and taking fans for granted that we continue to lament,” Smith said. 

To be fair to the NBA, TV numbers for all-star games have been trending downward. 

The NFL, for example, finally gave up on the Pro Bowl, replacing it with a flag football game coached by Peyton and Eli Manning. 

The power of the Shield helped the re-imagined Pro Bowl outpace the NBA All-Star with 6.28 million viewers.

More on the TV performance of NBA All-Star Weekend:

  • Despite the record-low number, Sunday night’s All-Star Game was still the most-viewed cable TV program. It was also the No. 1 program for viewers aged 50 and under. The number of cable TV homes used Saturday and Sunday nights was down 10% from last year. 
  • Sunday’s first live All-Star Draft averaged 3.9 million viewers across TNT/TBS. That was up eight times from last year’s Draft on TNT, which averaged 460,000 viewers.
  • All-Star Saturday Night averaged 3.4 million across TNT/TBS. It was the most-viewed program that night. Friday night’s Celebrity Game pulled 1.4 million viewers, up 8%.
  • On the digital front, All-Star Weekend generated 1.75 billion views across social and digital platforms globally. The league’s Twitter and Instagram feeds were the most-viewed accounts this past weekend. The NBA app posted its most-viewed All-Star Weekend ever.
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During the first half of the 2022-2023 season, NBA games across ABC, ESPN, and TNT averaged 1.6 million viewers. That’s flat compared to last season, despite the continuing erosion of cable TV homes. 

On the other hand, the NBA has received some good news as the league is just off of a record pace for average game attendance.

According to an SBJ Atlas analysis, games average 17,985 fans per game, just slightly behind the all-time mark of 17,987 from the entire 2017-18 season.

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