As the NBA playoffs heat up, another race for the year has already been determined—which teams garnered the highest local TV ratings. As should be no surprise, the NBA’s best are also the most watched in their particular regional cable sports channel markets, with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat, last year’s NBA finalists, topping the ratings battle.
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Fox Sports Oklahoma averaged an 8.65 rating for Thunder games during the 2012-13 regular season, according to Sports Business Journal — up 32% from last year (6.58), and the highest local average in the NBA. The 8.65 is the highest for any NBA team since the Spurs averaged an all-time NBA record 10.2 two years ago.
Ranking second for the season were the defending champion Heat on Sun Sports. Fueled by a 27-game winning streak in which games averaged a 9.1 rating, Sun Sports averaged a 7.07 for the 2012-13 season — up 7% from last year (6.59), and the highest average since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the team.
The Spurs, who led the local ratings race the past two seasons, ranked in third-place with a 6.44 average this year. That marks a 20% decline from last year’s 8.0, which was the second-best in team history.
The Lakers, as is typical, averaged the largest number of households during the regular season. Despite finishing in 7th place in the West, the team’s 4.64 rating on Time Warner Cable SportsNet was even with last year’s average on Fox Sports West. The Lakers crushed the Clippers, who averaged a 1.56 on FS West.
The Knicks were second in total number of homes, but the team’s 3.12 average rating on MSG Network declined 6% from last year’s record-high (3.30). Of course, considering how much hype the team attracted last season — not to mention the shortened 66-game slate — this year’s numbers are still impressive. As in Los Angeles, the more-established Knicks easily outdrew their crosstown rivals, pummeling the Nets on YES Network (0.96) by 225%.
The money brought in by regional sports networks, and the fees cable providers must pay them in order to carry their programming, means that sports television is big business. These ratings show that cable and satellite TV providers won’t be able to get away with trying to squeeze out regional sports networks just yet, no matter what the cost.