The NBA has long been criticized by outsiders as being a boring league with zero defense, selfish players and a playoff system that's just too long. While the last point could certainly be argued with consistency, the notion that the NBA is boring and doesn't attract a decent audience has never been more false.
Of course, boring is subjective, but that doesn't change the facts. At the All-Star break, the NBA was seeing its most-viewed regular season since the Jordan era. According to SportsBusiness Daily, on February 24th the NBA's ratings were up 19% during the shortened, 66-game season.
While those numbers may not have been consistent for the entirety of the season, it's interesting to see where the major television carriers of NBA games ended with their 2011-2012 regular season ratings.
TNT and NBA TV join ABC in drawing record audiences for NBA regular-season games during the condensed '11-12 campaign. TNT saw its best NBA audience in its 28 years of televising games. It is the second-straight season the net has set an all-time high, and fifth consecutive season of viewership growth. TNT aired the six most-watched NBA games on cable this season, including two of the five most-viewed NBA games in cable TV history. The season-opening Celtics-Knicks game on Christmas led the way with 5.9 million viewers. The net also saw double-digit percentage growth among males and adults 18-34. -- from SportsBusiness Daily.
But, yea, the NBA is a boring league with no fans. Right.
Now, the local ratings were also logged and tracked by SportsBusiness Daily, and their findings are sort of interesting. The report found at the All-Star break that the Celtics were dead last in the "Change In Viewers" category. CSNNE had a change in average number of viewers at -37,000. The Celtics also found itself at the bottom of the "Change In Rating" category. CSNNE's change in average rating was down 28.5%.
A lot of that has to do with the lockout and a shortened season. It also has a ton to do with the Celtics' slow start to the season. Boston was on the tail-end of a massive struggle when the All-Star break arrived, and only managed to find a groove and turn things on after the short break.
By the end of the year, Boston was on a roll and was playing extremely solid basketball. The Celtics had a much more impressive seeding in the playoffs, and Boston fans were finally realizing that this team, while not as talented as the 2008 championship team, had potential to be special.
Apparently not enough CSNNE viewers cared. Boston was 28th in NBA Team Local Rating (percentage gains) in 2011-2012. The Celtics lost 32.9% on CSNNE.
I'm sure there a load of explanations for the losses, but for a team with quite the following that is a very steep drop. The shortened season is the most easy scapegoat, but a Celtics team that much of the nation didn't believe in probably is an equally understandable explanation. Outside of Celtics fans, very few people truly thought Boston had anything close to enough grit, talent and stamina to win anything more than a first-round series.
Whatever the reason is, at this point it's irrelevant. CSNNE will surely do necessary things to boost ratings next season, and hopefully the 2012-2013 version of the Celtics will cooperate with the network and put together a team worthy of watching on a nightly basis.
The Celtics are now one win away from a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals, and the rest of its games will be played on networks that posted record numbers this season. TNT has been dominating prime-time ratings, and ESPN and ABC have fared quite well, too. Boston's local numbers may have dropped this season, but the playoffs have provided Boston with the opportunity to show the rest of the nation what a resilient and experienced team they are. Hopefully, they'll be continuing to show those characteristics in the following weeks.