Steve Koonin, the CEO of the Atlanta Hawks, has an idea to get more eyes on the NBA. He wants the league to start in the middle of December. That would push the NBA Finals into August. Koonin gave this thought while speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston Friday. The panel he was on discussed ways to tweak the NBA schedule.
This change would not take place until 2024 at the earliest, the next time the league’s collective bargaining agreement is up. Also, for this change to happen the teams, players, and broadcast partners would need to all agree to the shift in scheduling. However, this alteration would make a lot of sense for the NBA.
Koonin’s main point to delaying the season until December is centered around football. The NFL dominates sports viewership three times a week during their regular season. Right now, the NBA has to compete with that ratings behemoth during October, November, and December. Koonin realizes the NFL is a different animal.
“Many times at the start of the NBA season, we are competing with arguably the best Thursday Night Football game with the NBA on TNT,” Koonin said. “Our marque broadcast. We get crushed and we wonder why.”
It would make sense for the NBA to avoid having to go head to head with NFL regular season games so often for their first three months. No sport can rival the NFL’s ratings. As much as Koonin focuses on the NFL, another sport should have been brought up.
This move would also be great for the NHL. Currently both the NBA and NHL have basically the same season. The NHL starts only a couple of weeks before the NBA, and subsequently hockey ends before. However, there is a lot of overlap between the two sports that is made incredibly clear in the playoffs.
It is pretty hard for a fan of their local basketball and hockey team to really pay attention to both teams. They often play on the same nights at the same time. Fans can have twi screens with both games on, but you really miss a lot of details from both contests.
Not to mention, there is a rivalry between the leagues‘ fans. Hockey fans make fun of basketball for being too star driven and the players not being tough. Meanwhile, basketball fans poke fun at hockey for not having as many recognizable stars and not thriving in nontraditional hockey markets. The difference between the sports leads to fans basically picking which league they want to pay more attention to.
Not to mention, this only gets worse in the playoffs. For two months NBA and NHL playoff games fight for American eyeballs. In many US cities that have both sports the fans are forced to make decisions on which sport they will focus on. They can watch both teams, but one always grabs more of your attention.
So while the NBA moving to December limits their football problem, it also drastically helps with their hockey rivalry as well. The NHL playoffs will either be done or in the Finals by the time the NBA playoffs begin. The NBA should seriously consider moving the season tip off to December.
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones