The NBA has a Charles Barkley problem — again

The NBA has a Charles Barkley problem — again

TNT’s flagship show Inside The NBA is at its best this time of the year, as fans tune in multiple times per week to watch Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, and Shaquille O’Neal do their thing. But what happens when the star of the NBA’s biggest and best studio show gets on TV to tell fans not to watch playoff games at a time in which the league is in a ratings decline and in desperate need of casual fans to tune in? Well, thanks to Barkley and his big mouth, this is the league’s latest dilemma.

Telling people not to watch bad basketball might be funny, but it’s also bad for business.

“The only thing that’s exciting about the Eastern Conference is the Knicks against the Cavaliers. That’s the only thing exciting,” Barkley said on Tuesday night. “America, don’t be foolish, they want you to watch these games — Philly, Boston, Milwaukee, are head and shoulders above the rest of these bums in the Eastern Conference. Now the Knicks and Cleveland, that could be a really good series.”

Even if he’s right…

Despite the value or truth in Barkley’s opinion — it doesn’t take away from the fact that he told millions of viewers to not watch the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs when that is the exact opposite of what the NBA needs right now.

Ironically enough, on the same day, the league implemented plans to reduce spending and limit hiring “for the remainder of the fiscal year because of economic constraints,” according to ESPN.

“Like other businesses in the US and globally, the league office is not immune to macroeconomic pressures and taking steps to reduce expenses,” NBA spokesperson Mike Bass told ESPN in a statement.

The numbers don’t lie

In case you didn’t know, people aren’t watching the NBA like they used to. According to SportsMediaWatch, the 2023 NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, “averaged a combined 2.2 rating and 4.59 million viewers across TNT and TBS, making it easily the lowest-rated and least-watched edition of the game. The previous lows were a 3.1 (2021 and 2022) and around six million viewers (2021).”

The NBA’s problems are bigger than fans choosing not to watch a glorified pickup game. People aren’t watching the games that will determine a champion, either. Last year, the NFL was responsible for 82 of the 100 most-watched U.S. broadcasts. College football had five of the top 100, political programming had four, the World Cup had three, and college basketball had two. The NBA was unable to crack the Top 100, as Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals came in at 108th.

Never forget that back in November Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said “We don’t have to have the NBA,” in response to how expensive things might get when the NBA’s media rights deal expires after the 2024-25 season.

It’s as if Barkley and Zaslav want the network to fail.

TV deals expiring soon

According to The Athletic, the NBA will have received $24 billion from Turner and ESPN when their TV deals end after the 2024-2025 season. It’s expected that the league will be looking for somewhere around $75 billion in their new deal. According to Tim Baysinger at Axios, sports leagues will eventually have to make a decision between getting the most money from a deal or reaching the biggest audience — as he believes the days of doing both are no more.

The NBA has a decision to make, and the guy who runs a network doesn’t seem to be making them a priority, while the biggest name at that same network — Charles Barkley — is telling people not to watch games.

There’s an old African-American proverb that goes, “Sometimes, it be your own people.” It applies here.

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.