The call that Howard Levinson of YES Network had been waiting for about the Brooklyn Nets came when he was out shopping with his son.
After staring intently at his phone, his son suddenly grabbed Levinson’s arm and screamed the Nets were landing both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Finally, there would be some light at the end of the subway tunnel for the Nets, who have played second fiddle to the New York Knicks in the Big Apple since moving to Brooklyn in 2012. That also brings new hope for the Nets’ local TV ratings, which have annually ranked dead last in the NBA, as well as the possibility of an advertising stampede for YES’ Nets coverage.
As if on cue, the cell phone of YES’ senior vice president of advertising sales blew up with congratulatory calls, emails and text messages. Fast forward a few weeks later and the calls have kept coming for Levinson and YES.
The 27-time world champion New York Yankees have always been YES’ primary ratings and advertising attraction. But since the Durant/Irving news, the Nets have been drawing “Yankees-like attention,” according to Levinson.
How can the signing of Durant, a former NBA MVP, and Irving, the six-time All-Star, impact the franchise’s TV ratings and ad sales in coming years? Consider some numbers.
The Nets’ local ratings increased 22% on the back of the team going 42-40 and making the playoffs last year. However, the team still only averaged a 0.46 household TV rating on YES, the lowest among the NBA’s 30 teams.
In the last five seasons, the Nets have had the lowest local ratings in every year. In comparison, even the dysfunctional Knicks easily topped the Nets last season, with a 0.9 local rating on MSG.
Granted, Durant probably won’t play during the 2019/2020 NBA season due to injury. But the addition of Irving alone could more than double the Nets’ local TV ratings, according to former ad buyer turned media consultant Brad Adgate. That should in turn help YES command higher ad rates.
“They are coming off a strong season making the playoffs and Kyrie Irving will heighten interest. With Toronto and Boston losing key players, the Nets could be one of the top four teams in the East with Milwaukee, Philly and Indiana,” said Adgate
It will be fascinating to see whether Nets’ ratings can finally top the Knicks in the New York TV market, he added.
“With YES charging $6 in monthly retrans fees they could finally get their ROI from the Nets,” Adgate said.
The Nets renegotiated its RSN deal with YES in 2015. According to a report in the Sports Business Journal, the team receives a rights fee from the network of around $40 million annually. While the expiration date of the deal is not disclosed, it is believed it runs well into the next decade, according to SBJ.
Led by Levinson, YES’ sales reps started fielding calls from current and outside sponsors even before Durant and Irving made it official. Another YES executive who declined to be named said: “Bottom line, the Nets are hotter than they’ve ever been with our buyers.”
If he knows YES, Levinson’s sales team is already out in the market with increased ad rates, according to Adgate.
“They can mention all the online buzz the team has gotten. Increased ticket sales. The (Nets) can be promoted more on Yankees telecasts,” he said.
YES confirmed the regional sports network has raised its ad rates as a result of the free agent signings.
If the Nets’ ticket and merchandise sales since the duo committed to Brooklyn are any indication, the club’s poised for a ratings and advertising windfall.
Since Durant took to social media June 30 to announce Brooklyn as his next destination, the Nets have already blown past their ticket revenue from the 2018-2019 season, according to spokeswoman Stuart Bryan.
The club’s ticket sales staff received nearly 1,000 inbound phone calls that day alone. The team’s web site experienced a 675% spike in traffic. The team’s online store set sales records on July 1, July 7 and July 9.
Everybody wants to be where the action is. Over the last few months, the Los Angeles Clippers made a contract offer to Nets TV analyst Sarah Kustok.
But Kustok has signed a multi-year extension to stay with the Nets, according to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post.
As for Levinson? “My son thinks I’m a hero,” he says.