The NBA is Driven by Gamblers and Nothing Else

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The NBA has a problem folks, it is called lack of interest by the general population and low TV ratings, so writes Gambling911.com Special Contributor and TonyGeorgeSports.com proprietor, Tony George.

That means reduced overall income based on TV advertising rates because of the lack of viewers, and high salaries being paid to players who for the most part no one really has much interest in watching and the ratings prove it.  That is a business model that cannot sustain itself for an extended amount of time.  Yes, we currently have the NFL going on, College Basketball, and the College Football Bowl Season is upon us which draws interest away from their product, but the NBA is taking a backseat to all of those sports and will continue to do so.  Their ratings are deplorable, viewership is down, and basically anyone who has a sports minded cursory knowledge of Pro Basketball has realized the regular season is just a dress rehearsal and a 7-month exhibition game trek until Cleveland and Golden State meet again.

It is no secret that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did an Opinion piece in the NY Times this past year about his desire to bring legalized sports gambling into the forefront and narrative with his sport, because unlike David Stern he is a realist and clearly recognizes what drives his sport and TV ratings.  As a professional handicapper who talks about sports betting on a national radio show, I applaud him for at least acknowledging this fact in public and making a case for it, something the NFL avoids to talk about but the NFL also knows that more than 60% or more of their audience has some sport of action on the game including fantasy lovers as well. The NFL knows how to cater to their demographic without having to state the obvious. MLB at their winter meetings had a workshop and discussion about legalized sports betting.   

The fact that if the scenario existed that the New Orleans Pelicans were playing the Memphis Grizzles on TNT on a Thursday Night in direct competition with Thursday Night NFL Game, they are going to get buried by a minimum of 10 to 1 with viewers minimum.  The advertising fees TNT and ESPN and other major TV networks get to charge Ford, Chevy, Budweiser and other major sport advertisers are dropping like a rock and sooner or later that catches up with the overall brand and product in negative ways.

At days’ end gambling is keeping the NBA alive in terms of TV ratings.  The American public is obsessed with the NFL on numerous levels, they also love their college football, and MLB, which in fact set an all-time record in Las Vegas this past year with 1 Billion dollars legally wagered in Nevada Casino’s, and that does not even scratch the estimated 55 Billion bet outside on Nevada in this country and worldwide, as stated by Genesis Gaming, a brand integrity firm which watches over the MLB brand in terms of game integrity.  Matt Holt , COO of CG Technology in Las Vegas that manages 7 books, told me via my radio show interest in NBA Gambling in Las Vegas has dropped substantially and will be lucky to do half the mutual handle that MLB did in 2016.  

Here is an excerpt from Sports Media Watch which monitors TV rankings, this was posted on their website on December 14, 2016:

§   Rockets/Thunder scored 1.8 million viewers on ESPN’s NBA Friday last week, up 64% from Heat/Pacers last year (1.1M), up 51% from Blazers/Bulls in 2014 (1.2M). Ratings jumped 49% year-over-year (from 0.77 to 1.15). The Suns/Lakers nightcap had a 1.0 (flat) and 1.6 million (+9%). On Tuesday, Timberwolves/Bulls had 1.4 million and Thunder/Blazers 1.5 million — down 28% and flat, respectively, from the comparable 2014 doubleheader of Warriors/Grizzlies (1.9M) and Thunder/Kings (1.5M). There were no comparable games last year.


Here is a post from November 11, 2016:

§  Rockets/Spurs scored a 0.9 final rating and 1.5 million viewers on ESPN’s NBA Wednesday, down 18% in ratings (1.15 to 0.94) and 15% in viewership (1.7M to 1.5M) from last year’s comparable Spurs/Blazers game. Earlier in the night, Nets/Knicks had 1.1 million — off 36% from Clippers/Mavericks last year (1.7M) and down 30% from Pacers/Heat in 2014 (1.6M). In contrast to TNT, seven of the ten NBA games on ESPN this season have declined.

As you can clearly see the NBA is losing traction, and I can almost 100% guarantee you that the vast majority of these viewers are gamblers, because the only interest in the NBA is one that involves either Fantasy Players or Sports Gamblers. How many people would line up on a Monday Night in front of the TV and pound out the kind of ratings Monday Night Football posts if the 76ers were playing the T Wolves on ESPN?   

The stars of yesterday are history, Kobe, Jordan, Hardaway, Nash, McGrady, Magic, Kareem, Bird, Duncan, Malone and many others of that era are long gone, and now you have a bunch of average to less than average teams with no star power going through the motions, and teams with losing records making the playoffs.

There are very few big time NBA stars’ people are lining up to see with a few exceptions like LeBron James and Stephen Curry, James Harden, Michael Westbrook, Dwayne Wade and Kevin Durant.  And even then, 25 games into the season, LeBron James is taking games off for rest (he did against Memphis the week of December 12th), something unheard of 10 years ago unless it was a meaningless last game of the season for a star to take one game off to get ready for a playoff run. 

Where is all the potential NBA star power you ask?  Well there are good young players in the NBA, and some up and comers, but the NBA and the team’s owners are clueless on how to market them and build the overall brand, because again it is all a moot point and a foregone conclusion.  There are 2 to 3 good teams in each Conference, and then Golden State and Cleveland are just like Alabama and Ohio State in college football.  When it comes to the post season it is Alabama and Ohio State and then +2 for the final 4 (you could throw Clemson in that mix instead perhaps but you get my drift.  Cleveland will play Golden State in June and July for the NBA Championship, everything else is just white noise and no one cares, expect guys who gamble. 

Legalized Sports Gambling in fact may be the only thing to save the NBA, and I can assure you it is currently the one entity supporting it in the TV ratings right now.  It is time for the powers that be to legalize sports betting throughout the USA and I will bet you a dime to a dollar NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will have a sword in one hand and a torch in the other leading the charge if there is legislation on the table, and the MLB commissioner will be at his side as well.  The time has come. 

Tony George is found at www.tonygeorgesports.com, he a professional Sports Handicapper and also a Radio Show Host on SB Nation Radio.  Find his wares at his site.    

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