The Pacers and Rockets are both heading to the playoffs representing two cities with a rich NBA history. Unfortunately, both teams are also struggling to find fans, either at the games or in the ratings.The Pacers, who have the third best record in the Eastern Conference (38-23), average just 14,909 tickets sold per game (25th in NBA) in an arena that seats more than 18,000. And on television, an average of just 21,200 homes (26th in NBA) in the Indianapolis market tune into Pacers games (via SportsBusinessDaily.com).
If we assume 2.8 people per household, that means just 74,269 people watch a typical Pacers home game in Indianapolis. And that number is probably lower as television ratings would be expected to be lower for home games as some of those people buy tickets.
Things are even worse in Houston, where an average of just 72,898 people watch a typical Rockets home game. Their attendance (16,338 per game) is 20th in the NBA while their television ratings (20,200 households per game) are 27th [see update below].
The Pacers at least have the excuse of being in just the 25th largest market in this country. Houston is the tenth largest television market, and the Rockets’ 0.9 television rating is better than only the woeful Charlotte Bobcats (0.6).
Now compare that to the Tampa Bay Rays, a team many consider to have horrible fan support in Major League Baseball. In 2012, they were last in attendance with just 19,255 tickets sold per game. But on television, an average game was seen in 87,000 homes. That translates to 262,855 fans watching a typical Rays home game in just the Tampa Bay market.
Some would have you believe that the NBA is now the second biggest sport in this country. But if the typical Rockets and Pacers audiences are just 25% of that for an average Rays game, the NBA has a long ways to go. And they need to think about whether the sport can survive in places like Houston and Indianapolis.
[UPDATE] One reason for the low television ratings in Houston is because DirecTV and AT&T Uverse do not carry Comcast Sportsnet, which airs Rockets games. However, even if we doubled the Rockets’ television ratings to 1.8, that would still be just approximately 130,000 people watching a typical home game, or about half of a typical Rays game.
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