NBA tips off with a rise in CPMs and tighter inventory
The rivalry between LeBron James and Steph Curry has ignited interest
October 25, 2016
By the editors of Media Life
Last season was a banner one for the NBA.
LeBron James and Steph Curry, the league’s two biggest stars, continued a budding rivalry that’s become, if not quite Magic and Bird level, at the least one of the best in sports today.
The record-setting season by the Golden State Warriors, followed by James and Curry’s epic battle in the NBA Finals, continued to revive interest in a league that, just a few years ago, seemed to be on the decline.
With the NBA set to tip off its regular season this Tuesday night on TNT with a doubleheader featuring both the Cavaliers’ and the Warriors’ home openers, buyers say demand for ads has risen, right along with prices.
“In terms of CPM, the NBA is certainly not trending down, but that’s across all programming. ESPN had a strong upfront and that increases pricing,” says Sara Van Kuiken, associate media director at Kelly Scott Madison.
She notes that ABC is getting the best prices for games that air Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, topping national cable rates for games on ESPN and TNT.
“These games that air on a broadcast network in a premium window tend to be bigger matchups with higher ranked teams,” Van Kuiken says.
The gains in pricing should be expected for a league that last season reversed a recent trend of declining ratings. The league had been lagging following the 2012 lockout but also has been impacted by cord cutting, which has zapped some households from ESPN and TNT’s reach.
Add to that the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, which hail from the two biggest markets, have struggled, and it seemed as though ratings would be down again last year.
But a second-half surge, led by huge tune-in for the Warriors as they broke the Chicago Bulls’ two-decade-old mark for most wins in a season, boosted ABC (up 9 percent), ESPN (up 10 percent), TNT (up 1 percent) and NBA TV (up 19 percent) to year-to-year viewership gains.
Regional sports networks
Of course, the NBA isn’t just nationally televised games. Regional sports networks such as Comcast Sports Net and Fox Sports Southwest also carry NBA games for local teams.
Van Kuiken says demand depends on the success of the local team and how many other professional or college teams are in the area.
“Some markets’ CPPs have increased versus year ago (Atlanta, Cleveland, Salt Lake City), some are down (Dallas, NY Knicks and Nets) and some are flat (Milwaukee and Indianapolis),” she says.
If you have enough lead time, the inventory is accessible and affordable, though not necessarily cheap.
“Even in the case of Cleveland, where pricing has increased coming off of a championship season, we were still able to secure in-game spots and an in-game feature for the 2016-2017 season for one of our clients,” says Van Kuiken.
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