The National Basketball Association is shown on national television on broadcast channel ABC, cable networks ESPN and TNT, as well as the NBA TV network. The NBA is also shown on multiple regional sports networks.
As one of the major sports leagues in North America, the National Basketball Association has a long history of partnership with television networks in the US. The League signed a contract with DuMont in its 8th season (1953–54), marking the first year the NBA had a national television broadcaster. Similar to NFL, the lack of television stations leads to NBC taking over the rights beginning the very next season until April 7, 1962 - NBC's first tenure with the NBA. After the deal expired, Sports Network Incorporated (later known as the Hughes Television Network) signed up for two-year coverage in the 1962–63, 1963–64 season. ABC gained the NBA in 1964, the network aired its first NBA game on January 3, 1965, but lost the broadcast rights to CBS after the 1972–73 season with the initial tenure ending on May 10, 1973. As the national broadcaster of the NBA, CBS aired NBA games from the 1973-74 until the 1989–90 season, during which the early 1980s is notoriously known as the tape delay playoff era.
NBC then succeeded the broadcast rights from 1990 to 2002. During NBC's partnership with the NBA in the 1990s, the league rose to unprecedented popularity, with ratings surpassing the days of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in the mid 1980s. Upon expiration of the contract in 2002, the league signed an agreement with ABC, which began airing games in the 2002-03 season. NBC had made a four-year $1.3 billion ($330 million/year) bid in the spring of 2002 to renew its NBA rights, but the league instead went to ESPN and ABC with a six-year deal worth $2.4 billion ($400 million/year), a total of $4.6 billion ($766 million/year) when adding the cable deal with Turner Sports. Partially due to the retirement of Michael Jordan, the league suffered ratings decline after ESPN and ABC took over the rights. NBA extended its national TV package on June 27, 2007 worth eight-year $7.4 billion ($930 million/year) through 2015–16 season, during which the league had its new resurgence leading by renewed Celtics–Lakers rivalry and LeBron James. On October 6, 2014, NBA announced a nine-year $24 billion ($2.7 billion/year) extension with ESPN, ABC and Turner Sports beginning with the 2016–17 season and running through the 2024–25 season - the second most expensive media rights in the world after NFL and on a par with Premier League in annual rights fee from 2016–17 to 2018–19 season.
NBA entered the cable territory in 1979 when USA Network signed a three-year $1.5 million deal and extended for two years until the 1983-84 season, ESPN also had a brief affair with NBA from 1982 to 1984. Turner Sports obtained rights to air NBA games beginning with the 1984-85 season (replacing ESPN and USA Network as national cable partners) under a four-year deal, in which TBS shared the NBA television package along with CBS. In the summer of 1987, Turner Broadcasting System signed a new joint broadcast contract between TBS and TNT to split broadcast NBA games starting from the 1988-89 season. TNT held rights to broadcast the NBA draft, most NBA regular season and playoff games, while TBS only aired single games or doubleheaders once a week. The 2001-02 season would mark the final year of regular NBA coverage on TBS, Turner Sports signed a new NBA television contract in which TNT would assume rights to the company's NBA package while TBS would discontinue game coverage altogether. In recent years however, TBS has served as an overflow feed during the playoffs while also simulcasting the 2015, 2016, and 2017 NBA All-Star Game. Subsequently ESPN regained the NBA in 2002-03 season and took over TBS's half of cable television rights.
|2011–12 (lockout shortened)||ABC||3.3|
|1998–99 (lockout shortened)||NBC||4.3|
|2011–12 (lockout shortened)||5.42M||2.50M||1.86M||0.34M|
|2016||TNT||Oklahoma City Thunder vs Golden State Warriors WCF Game 7||8.9||16.00M|
|2012||ESPN||Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat ECF Game 7||7.7||13.35M|
|2013||TNT||Indiana Pacers vs Miami Heat ECF Game 7||7.1||11.57M|
|2011||TNT||Miami Heat vs Chicago Bulls ECF Game 1||6.2||11.11M|
|2012||ESPN||Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics ECF Game 6||6.8||11.07M|
|2012||ESPN||Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics ECF Game 4||6.8||11.07M|
|2011||TNT||Chicago Bulls vs Miami Heat ECF Game 3||6.4||10.89M|
|2016||TNT||Golden State Warriors vs Oklahoma City Thunder WCF Game 6||6.2||10.81M|
|2011||TNT||Miami Heat vs Chicago Bulls ECF Game 5||6.4||10.41M|
|2012||ESPN||Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat ECF Game 5||6.3||10.25M|
|2016||Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors Game 7||15.8/29||31.02M|
|2010||Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers Game 7||15.6/27||28.20M|
|2013||San Antonio Spurs vs Miami Heat Game 7||15.3/26||26.32M|
|2017||Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors Game 5||13.5/25||24.47M|
|2011||Dallas Mavericks vs Miami Heat Game 6||13.3/23||23.88M|
|2015||Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers Game 6||13.4/24||23.25M|
|2004||Los Angeles Lakers vs Detroit Pistons Game 5||13.8/23||21.84M|
|2015||Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors Game 5||11.8/21||20.86M|
|2016||Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers Game 6||11.8/22||20.70M|
|2013||San Antonio Spurs vs Miami Heat Game 6||12.3/21||20.64M|
Games on Christmas Day have drawn some of the biggest regular season audience. Since 2001, the most watched Christmas games were:
|2017||ABC, ESPN, TNT||5||2.6||5.10M|
|2014||ABC, ESPN, TNT||5||2.8||5.22M|
|2011 (lockout shortened, opening day)||ABC, ESPN, TNT||5||3.5||6.31M|
|2008||ABC, ESPN, TNT||5||2.5||4.43M|
The NBA All-Star Game was on broadcast networks until 2002, TNT began airing the All-Star Game in 2003 which featured the last appearance of Michael Jordan in the event, TBS started simulcasting the game since 2015.
|2017||TNT, TBS||West 192, East 182||4.2/7||7.75M|
|2016||TNT, TBS||West 196, East 173||4.3/7||7.61M|
|2015||TNT, TBS||West 163, East 158||4.3/7||7.18M|
|2014||TNT||East 163, West 155||4.3/7||7.51M|
|2013||TNT||West 143, East 138||4.6/8||8.02M|
|2012||TNT||West 152, East 149||4.4/7||7.07M|
|2011||TNT||West 148, East 143||5.2/9||9.09M|
|2010||TNT||East 141, West 139||3.8/6||6.85M|
|2009||TNT||West 146, East 119||4.5/7||7.62M|
|2008||TNT||East 134, West 128||3.8/6||6.33M|
|2007||TNT||West 153, East 132||4.2/7||6.84M|
|2006||TNT||East 122, West 120||4.3/8||7.07M|
|2005||TNT||East 125, West 115||4.9/8||8.08M|
|2004||TNT||West 136, East 132||5.1/10||8.19M|
|2003||TNT||West 155, East 145||6.6/12||10.83M|
|2002||NBC||West 135, East 120||8.2/15||13.10M|
|2001||NBC||East 111, West 110||5.1/8||7.76M|
|2000||NBC||East 137, West 126||6.9/12||10.52M|
|1999||Cancelled due to owners' Lockout|
|1998||NBC||East 135, West 114||10.6/17||16.93M|
|1997||NBC||East 132, West 120||11.2/19||16.90M|
|1996||NBC||East 129, West 118||11.7/20||17.46M|
|1995||NBC||West 139, East 112||10.7/17||15.78M|
|1994||NBC||East 127, West 118||9.1/14||13.67M|
|1993||NBC||West 135, East 132||14.3/22||22.91M|
|1992||NBC||West 153, East 113||12.8/26||18.83M|
|1991||NBC||East 116, West 113||7.8/21||10.61M|
|1990||CBS||East 130, West 113||9.5/13||13.20M|
NBA games not televised by its national partners are instead broadcast by local broadcast stations and regional sports network, televising their respective local team within their respective region. Regionally broadcast games are subject to blackouts, and those games from outside of a viewer's designated market are blacked out to protect the local team.
Most NBA regional broadcasters are members of national chains:
Entering the 2017–18 NBA season
|AT&T SportsNet||Houston, Utah|
|Fox Sports Networks
(incl. Yes Network)
|Atlanta, Brooklyn, Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, Dallas, Indiana, LA Clippers, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Phoenix, San Antonio|
|NBC Sports Regional Networks||Boston, Chicago, Golden State, Philadelphia, Portland, Sacramento, Washington|
|Spectrum Sports||LA Lakers|
|Sportsnet and TSN
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