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Report: NBA TV audience share grows 15% on RSNs

The league's YoY viewership on Bally Sports RSNs grows by nearly 20%.

7 February 2023 Josh Sim
Giannis Milwaukee Bucks NBA

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The National Basketball Association (NBA) has seen its audience share on regional sports networks (RSNs) increase by 15 per cent, despite the aggregate RSN viewership dropping by five per cent, according to The Athletic.


  • The league’s 16 teams that have local TV deals with Sinclair’s Bally Sports RSNs have seen their year-over-year (YoY) viewership go up by nearly 20 per cent for the 2022/23 season
  • Nationally televised games on ABC, ESPN and TNT average 1.6 million viewers, which is a one per cent growth over last season per Nielsen data
  • Nielsen also found that 0.9 per cent of US households watched the national games, which is flat to 2021/22, while an average of three per cent of homes with a TV watched NBA games on the three networks
  • The league’s Christmas Day slate averaged 4.31 million viewers on ABC and ESPN, which is a five per cent YoY gain
  • The league’s out-of-market subscription service NBA League Pass saw a 43 per cent increase in subscribers over the past season, with a 60 per cent rise in viewership this season
  • The NBA recently surpassed 10.5 billion social media views across all platforms, representing growth of almost 60 per cent from the same period last year
  • Teams are playing to 96 per cent capacity in arenas so far, up six per cent over last year, with 170 more sellout games than the same point last season


Many of the 16 teams aligned to a Bally Sports-operated RSN are playing well this season, resulting in an increase in linear local viewership over the past year.

The flat ratings will be perceived as a win for the NBA, given the decline in cable TV across the US. It indicates that the league remains a draw for those watching linear TV.

The NBA’s growth in viewership over Christmas will also be a positive as this year it was up against three National Football League (NFL) games for the first time, which tend to take the lion’s share of audiences.

Having a cast of international superstars has also boosted the NBA’s social media and League Pass numbers, with more fans tuning in and interacting with the league than ever before.

Coming next:

The NBA’s strong showing on RSNs comes as Bally Sports’ principal owner Diamond Sports is reportedly prepared for bankruptcy by media conglomerate Sinclair in an attempted restructuring. Diamond is expected to make its initial rights payments to teams later this month, so the 16 NBA franchises can expect to take a hit financially. The Athletic reports that the NBA is making plans to take over production of game broadcasts if the insolvency process goes awry.

Meanwhile, the league is expected to soon enter negotiations over the next cycle of domestic rights, with its current agreements due to expire in 2025. The NBA will be in a favourable position to net a huge deal in a crowded market, with a report in November indicating it may try to sell an exclusive package for around US$1 billion to streaming services.

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