Attention NBA- Start Every Season On Christmas Day
In this shortened 66 game NBA season, after two games one thing is clear- people are treating each game like it’s the end of the world. The Mavs and Lakers are DOA, the Clippers will win the title and the Bulls are waffling.
Call it “NFL Syndrome”, where because there are only 16 games, there are no “throw away games” and every game is important. But is that necessarily bad for the NBA?
For the last several years in particular there is an increasing sentiment that too many teams and players mail it in due to the duration of the 82 game season. Especially with the beginning of the NBA season coinciding with the end of the NFL regular season and start of the playoffs, which after all is the nation’s most popular professional league. Other than opening day, a lot of fans don’t even begin to focus on the NBA until the NFL season is over. Gradually, fans matriculate to watching the NBA, sans a sense of urgency, because they know they haven’t missed that much in a typical year if they didn’t pay attention to the first 16 or so games.
A 66 game NBA season makes every game that much more important, which can’t be bad for the league- The NBA labor dispute may have actually increased interest. TNT's Knicks-Celtics drew a 4.1 rating, up 52% from coverage of a Knicks-Bulls game on ESPN last year. Miami-Dallas was up 6% from a Boston-Orlando game last year. Chicago-L.A. Lakers 6.5 rating was ABC's third-highest rated NBA regular-season ever. Orlando-Oklahoma City was up 36% from a Denver-Oklahoma City rating last year. ESPN's L.A. Clippers-Golden State was up 77% from a Portland-Golden State game last year.
So are the ratings up because of the shortened season, the Christmas Day start to the season or because of the interest of the lockout? I think all three were important pieces, but the most significant had to be the Christmas Day start. Interest was heightened across the board because more people are in front of their TV’s on Christmas then a regular mid-week start to the NBA season. Plus, this was the first chance for the average NBA fan to see some compelling match ups in addition to how these teams looked for the first time in the 2011-12 season.
So, on the heels of the NBA setting TV viewership records by opening the season on Christmas Day, would it be such a bad thing if the NBA started every season on Christmas Day? Wouldn’t that increase interest even if the season wasn’t shortened by a strike? In a similar fashion to the way the NFL has cornered the market on Thanksgiving Day games, ingraining itself and its product into the fabric of the actual holiday itself, why can’t the NBA do that with Christmas? The season wouldn’t even have to be shortened, just moved back to end in June. By doing that, they also don’t have to compete with the opening of the MLB season (a truly arduous one) which essentially begins in April.
If the NBA started every season on Christmas, would it make you more likely to watch the games?