Written by:
Alex Windsor
Fact checked by:
Oliver Dickinson
Updated:
March 15, 2024

NBA Viewership Statistics – Viewership Declines On Multiple Fronts

NBA Viewership Statistics

A world of quality and esteem separates the National Basketball Association from the world’s best professional basketball leagues. Even top-tier leagues in Europe, South America, and Asia lag far behind the level of play in the NBA. Naturally, NBA viewership dominates domestic and global basketball ratings.

Each NBA game draws well over a million viewers, with those numbers significantly pumped during the playoffs and finals. Yet, the NBA is not North America’s most-watched sport. That honor goes to the NFL. However, the vast majority of NFL followers are US-based. Conversely, basketball is universal.

While the US is the epicenter of NBA viewership, the league is immensely popular abroad and followed with great enthusiasm in most countries outside the U.S. Even so, some surveys show unfavorable viewership trends.

To illustrate the see-sawing interest in the NBA – domestically and globally – we collected and analyzed various NBA viewership statistics. We share our findings below.

Noteworthy NBA Viewership Statistics:

Domestic and Global NBA Viewership Trends

Viewership-wise, the NBA’s glory days seem like a distant past. Ask any veteran NBA fan. They’ll tell ya, things have changed. Such is the nature of things, but in the case of the NBA, it’s for the worse.

Its ratings and popularity have fluctuated for the past 6-7 years. In 2016, the finals hit an unprecedented low. The All-Star games played over the past years have also been hit by declining viewership. Yet some trends are positive and promising, such as the viewership spike on ESPN and ABC for the 2023/24 season.

We’ll start our article with a few general stats about the NBA’s viewership, both domestically and internationally.

1. Domestic NBA TV Rights Revenue Exceeds $2.6 Billion

(Ampere Analysis)

Drawing from NBA revenue statistics from the past few years, it is clear the bulk of the viewers watching primetime television games are in the US. According to sports industry revenue data, of the nearly $3.4 billion global revenue, $2.6 billion came from the US. The data was collected and analyzed by Ampere Analysis for the 2022/23 NBA season. Note that the data collected pertains only to TV rights viewership, excluding social media or alternative streaming platforms

2. 2022/23 Season Averaged Just Under 1.6M Viewers, Marking a Small Decrease

(Statista)

The NBA’s diminished audience is best seen in sports viewership data for the 2022/23 season. NBA games averaged 1.59 million viewers on ABC, ESPN, and TNT. It marks a small drop from last season (2021/22), when the average viewership of regular games was 1.61 million per game. The Statista Research Department released the findings in 2023. The research was conducted between 2019 and 2023.

3. NBA Generates More Non-US TV Rights Revenue Than Any Other US Sport

(Ampere Analysis)

The NFL dominates domestic TV ratings, but it pales in comparison to the NBA TV ratings when it comes to global revenue and, effectively, viewership of regular-season games. Data on revenue generated from global TV rights by Ampere Analysis shows the NBA isolated in first place with $715M in TV rights revenue. In second and third place are the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Football League (NFL), with $496M and $351M, respectively. Major League Baseball (MLB) took last place with $143M from foreign TV rights revenue.

4. Lakers, Bulls, and Warriors are the Most-Followed Teams

(Ampere Analysis)

The Ampere Analysis research showed another interesting finding about global NBA viewership. Six percent of respondents (including from the USA) singled out the Los Angeles Lakers as their favorite team, while 5% of respondents named the Chicago Bulls and the Golden State Warriors as their favorites. Four percent said they followed the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and New York Knicks. The research questioned NBA fans in China, Spain, Mexico, the UK, Indonesia, and the USA.

5. 2022/23 Season Among Least-Watched in 30 Years

(Sports Media Watch)

On the home front, the NBA is still struggling. The league’s TV ratings and viewer base have been shaken to their core since the historic low of the 2020 NBA finals. According to data shared by Sports Media Watch, viewership for the 2022/23 season (1.59M per NBA game) sank to its lowest in 30 years. This is among the single biggest ratings drops by one of the major pro sports leagues in the US.

According to the research, only the COVID-era 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons saw bigger drops – 1.55M and 1.36M per game, respectively.

NBA Draft and NCAA I Basketball Viewership Overview

College basketball and, consequently, the NBA draft are integral constituents of the league. The draft was launched in 1947 and has retained solid popularity and a steady base of followers for decades. Millions of fans are curious to see some of the future stars in action. As indivisible components of the NBA, the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament and the draft that follows are heavily scrutinized and observed in terms of player performances and general viewership. Here are a few statistical highlights.

6. 2023 Draft Attracted Over 3.7 Million Viewers

(Statista, NBA)

The NBA draft still holds its own. The 2023 draft attracted 3.74 million viewers on ABC and ESPN, which is the highest-ever rating for the popular off-season event and a 23% rise from last season. For comparison, the 2022 draft attracted 3.05 million viewers and 2.26 million and 2.13 million in 2021 and 2020, respectively, according to Statista. The 2015 draft viewership was the closest to the 2023 record in over a decade, recording 3.7 million viewers on average.

7. March Madness Final Lost over 2 Million viewers

(Sports Media Watch)

Like the draft, the NCAA March Madness is an exciting time in the offseason for NBA and basketball fans. At least it used to be. In 2023, the popular single-elimination college basketball championship recorded an abysmal drop of over 2 million viewers. The 14.69 million viewers who tuned in on CBS for the 2023 March Madness final marks a 15% viewership drop compared to the 17.05 million who watched Kansas grab their 4th championship against North Carolina the previous season (2022).

8. 2023 Marks Record-High Viewership Across All Major Networks

(NBA, ESPN)

The euphoria surrounding the 2023 draft presented us with another interesting statistic. The first round of the draft drew 24% more fans to the small screens compared to last year’s first-round ratings. It totaled 4,928,000 viewers on ABC and ESPN, even jumping to over 6 million viewers in the 8 p.m. slot, according to data shared by ESPN and the NBA. The figures mark a historic high for the anticipated pre-season event.

9. With 14.7M Viewers, March Madness 2023 Final Beats 2022 NBA Finals

(Statista)

As the NBA continues to hemorrhage viewers, the NCAA I men’s basketball tournament, despite the 2023 record low, holds firm. In fact, the 2023 March Madness championship face-off averaged 14.69 million viewers (CBS). This is higher than each of the six 2022 NBA finals, which had an average of less than 12.4M viewers (12.34M, to be exact), according to data we collected via Yahoo Sports and Forbes.

10. WNBA Draft Makes History With 572K Viewers

(Statista)

Understandably, there’s nowhere near enough enthusiasm for the WNBA as the NBA. And yet, in the whirlpool of NBA and WNBA statistics, this one could not be overlooked. The WNBA’s 2023 draft marked a historic high of 572,000 viewers on ESPN. This is well over 150,000 viewers more compared to the second-highest viewership of the WNBA draft in 2014, when it attracted a then-historic average that peaked at 413,000.

General Stats About the NBA’s Popularity and Viewership in the USA

While not the most engaged professional sports league in the US, the NBA is still among the top three in terms of popularity, viewership, and in-person attendance. Here are a few interesting stats related to the league’s domestic viewership and overall interest levels among key age groups, ethnicities, and genders.

11. Viewership for NBA 2023 Season is up 16%

(NBA)

According to Nielsen data released by the NBA in December 2023, the per-game viewership on ABC and ESPN jumped 16% compared to last year. Last season, an average of 1,469,000 viewers followed NBA games on ABC and ESPN, while the 2023 average is 1,712,000.

12. Only 28% in 18-34 Age Demo Consider Themselves ‘Avid’ NBA Fans

(Statista)

One of the most targeted age demographics in sports is people aged between 18 and 35. Regarding the NBA, a March 2023 survey found that only 28% of the key 18-34 demographic considered themselves ‘avid fans.’ Meanwhile, 32% said they were ‘casual fans,’ and 40% said they were no fans of the NBA. The results for the 35-44 demo were even grimmer, where only 26% identified themselves as avid fans; 32% casual fans, and 43% said they were ‘not a fan.’

13. Nearly 50% of Survey Respondents Are Not Interested in the NBA

(Statista)

Data shared by Statista from an early March 2023 Morning Consult survey shows a staggering 49% said they had no interest in watching NBA games. Additionally, just 31% of the 2,205 male respondents identified as ‘avid’ NBA fans, while 34% said they were ‘not a fan.’ The same survey generated an average of all ethnicities, age groups (18 or older), and genders, which found only 20% identified as avid fans.

14. NBA Viewership on ESPN up 9% in December 2023

(Nielsen, ESPN)

Nielsen data published by ESPN’s Press Room shows NBA viewership on the network’s NBA Today show in December 2023 jumped 9% relative to the same period last year. An average of 313,000 people tuned into the show in 2023, compared to 286,000 the year before. NBA Today also saw a significant jump in viewership among Hispanics (69%) and across the 18-49 and 21-54 age groups, where viewership increased by 13% and 14%, respectively.

This is a perfect example of the NBA’s turbulent rating performances across key metrics over the years – recording viewership spikes in some instances and marking record lows in others.

15. NBA Viewership 3rd Among Major Leagues With 285B Minutes

(Nielsen, Statista)

The NFL is the undisputed leader in popularity and viewership within US borders. Data shared by Nielsen in December 2023 showed the results of a Nov. 2022 through Nov. 2023 survey on the most-followed US professional leagues. The NFL came on top, with Americans watching 947 billion minutes of the league in said period.

Americans’ second favorite sport is baseball, with 329 billion minutes spent watching Major League Baseball (MLB) events. The NBA came in third with 285 billion minutes watched, followed by the NHL and the MLS.

Home Attendance and Social Media Engagement in the NBA

Alongside NBA TV ratings and viewership across mainstream sports media cable networks, social media networks play a critical role in generating views. We highlighted a few relevant statistics that reflect the NBA’s growing social media popularity in terms of followers, fanbases, and video viewers.

16. Chicago Bulls Record Highest Home Attendance with 20,527 Spectators

(Statista)

The Chicago Bulls have historically been one of the league’s top franchises, both in terms of popularity and success. Statistics on home attendance for the 2022/23 season show the Bulls had the highest number of spectators at home of any team, with a 20,527 average. The Philadelphia 76ers had the second-highest home attendance average of 20,469, followed by the Dallas Mavericks with 20,177.

17. L.A. Lakers Most-Followed Team on Twitter (X) and Facebook

(Statista)

The Los Angeles Lakers are by far the most-followed Team on Twitter (X) and Facebook. The franchise, helmed by LeBron James, had 11.88 million Twitter followers and 21.87 million on Facebook as of October 2023. Interestingly, the Bulls have the second-largest Facebook following with 16.69 million likes, but it is the Golden State Warriors that take second place on Twitter (behind the Lakers) with 8.45 million followers, while the Bulls are fourth with 4.73 million, behind the Miami Heat (5.06 million).

18. NBA Social Media Following in 2023/24 Eclipses NFL’s

(NBA teams’ social media pages)

The NFL may be the most lucrative sports league in the US, but the NBA’s social media following is formidable. The NFL has 20M followers on Facebook, 29.9M on Instagram, and 35.1M on Twitter (X). For comparison, the NBA has 45.6M Twitter followers, 86.8M Instagram followers, and 48M Facebook followers. The NBA’s social media dominance is also seen in the followings of its individual teams. For instance, the Dallas Cowboys –the NFL’s most popular team on Facebook– has 8.1M followers as of March 2024. The Lakers had 22M followers as of March. This disproportion is also evident on Twitter and Instagram.

19. Lakers Drew 7M FB Fans and 9M Twitter Fans Since 2012

(Statista)

The Lakers – the NBA’s most popular team – have seen a surge in Twitter and Facebook fans since 2012. That year, the franchise had 14.66M Facebook fans and just 2.7M fans on Twitter. Compared to the figures we shared above, that’s more than 7 million new Facebook fans (21.87M) and over 9M new Twitter followers (11.88M). The Lakers also saw an increase of approximately 100,000 followers on Facebook from March 2023 to October 2023.

20. NBA 2022/23 Season Breaks Social Media Viewership Records With Over 32B Views

(NBA)

The growing fanbases of the NBA and NBA teams across social media networks have had a positive impact on social media viewership. According to data published on the official NBA website, the league generated 13B viewers on Instagram alone. The number of viewers across all social media accounts affiliated with the NBA generated 32B video views – more than any other sports league. This is, in large part, the result of the NBA’s large international following, which generates the views. Data released by the league shows 70% of the NBA’s social media fanbase comes from outside the US.

Viewership Data For Top NBA Events (Finals, All-Star, In-Play Tournament)

In recent years, NBA leadership has undertaken assertive marketing efforts to ramp up ratings, engage consumers, and draw more fans. The campaigns were rolled out ahead of the (2023) finals, when NBA euphoria was at its peak. The marketing has had some effect, but whether it achieved the desired results is a question for the NBA’s analytics department. ANywahy, we sorted out five underlying data points and statistics related to the ratings and TV viewership of the top NBA events, including the finals, All Star games, and the traditional Christmas Day games.

21. 2023 NBA Finals 11.6M Average Dwarfed by Super Bowl Audience

(Statista)

The 2023 NBA finals between the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets averaged 11.64 million viewers, a sharp drop from the 12.4 million viewers the previous year. Both figures are eclipsed by the Super Bowl’s massive audience, which, for the 2024 game, set a record for the most-watched Super Bowl in history with more than 123M viewers in the U.S.

22. All-Star Game Viewership Marks 20% Increase

(Statista)

The 2024 NBA All-Star Game, which took place in Indianapolis on Feb. 18, averaged 5.5 million viewers. That’s a 20% increase from last year when 4.6M people tuned in. But looking at year-by-year data on Statista, the 2023 All Star Game marked a considerable drop compared to the 7.23M average between 2013 and 2022. Therefore, although the 2024 All-Star game saw a 20% jump, it is a negligible increase compared to games played over the last decade.

23. 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament Marks Record-High 2M Viewers

(NBA)

The in-season tournament is an addition to the regular season to fill the last two playoff spots and it is contested between teams that finish between 7th and 10th place in the Eastern and Western Conference. Another expected goal of the tournament is to boost the declining viewership ratings.

Looking at data shared by the NBA, about 2 million viewers saw an in-season game between the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors on TNT. This is a 93% increase compared to a game played in a similar ‘window’ in 2022. The SoFi NBA 2024 Play-In Tournament will take place between April 16 and April 19.

24. 2023 NBA Christmas Day Slate Average of 2.8M Pales to NFL’s

(USA Today)

The NBA Christmas Day match slate featured 5 games, which averaged 2.8M viewers on ABC and ESPN, per USA Today’s Sports Data center. The numbers per game are as follows:

In contrast, the two NFL games between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, and San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens (ESPN), averaged 28.05M TV viewers on FOX and ESPN. Twenty-nine million (29M) tuned into the former, and 27.1M followed the latter game.

24. 2023 NBA Finals 800K Viewership Drop Still Bests March Madness Numbers

(Forbes)

In 2023, an average of 10 million American TV viewers followed the March Madness tournament games. This marked a 7% drop from the previous year and over 1.5 million fewer viewers than the 11.6M who watched the 2023 NBA finals. The NBA came on top even though it experienced a drop of around 800K viewers compared to the over 12.4M average during the 2022 finals.

Summary of NBA Viewership Statistics

Source:

If we can draw one conclusion from all this data, it’s that NBA fan interest, at least across national TV networks, has been declining from 2020 onwards. The 2016 and 2017 NBA finals peaked with 20.2M and 20.4M viewers, respectively, while in 2020, only 7.7 M followed the event, setting an all-time low. With 11.64M, the 2023 finals are a far cry from that historic low, but still lower than the 12.4M in 2022.

It’s worth noting that viewership engagement in the NBA rises steadily across all social media, marked by expanding fanbases and tens of millions of video views.

A new marketing campaign undertaken by the NBA is set to jump-start the league’s struggling fan engagement with fans. Tammy Henault, the NBA’s newly-appointed chief marketing officer, announced they are working on rolling out a new membership program accessible to anyone around the world. The program will include exclusive rewards for members. The campaign has had some early success, but it will be put to a real test during the 2024 playoffs in April and the finals that follow.

FAQs

  • How Many People Watched the NBA Finals?
    The 2023 NBA finals saw a viewership decline from the previous year, averaging 11.6M viewers in the United States.
  • What is the Average Viewership for NBA Games?
    Drawing from data we found on Statista, the 2022/23 season averaged 1.59 million TV viewers on ABC, ESPN, and TNT.
  • Are the NBA TV Ratings Low?
    The 1.59M average viewers for the NBA 2022/23 season marked a small decline from the 2021/22 season. On the other hand, the average NBA viewership on ABC and ESPN in 2023 was up from 1.46M average viewers per game to 1.7M.
  • Does the NBA have a Lower Viewership Than the NFL?
    Both the NBA and NFL are among the most popular professional sports leagues in the US, but the NFL traditionally has a broader fanbase in the US. Statista shows Americans watched 974 billion minutes of the NFL in 2023, ranking first, while the NBA came in third with 285 billion minutes watched.

Sources

  1. Statista
  2. Statista
  3. Ampere Analysis (via SportsPro Media)
  4. Sports Media Watch
  5. ESPN
  6. ESPN Press Room
  7. Statista
  8. NBA
  9. NBA
  10. Statista
  11. Nielsen (via Statista)
  12. USA Today Sports Data Center
  13. Forbes
AUTHOR
Alex Windsor

Alex is the Head of Content here at Minimum Deposit Betting Sites, leveraging his immense experience in the sports betting and iGaming industry to steer the boat and make sure all of our content is up to par and of the best possible quality.