It’s the most wonderful time of the year for two of the four major American sports leagues. For an early summer window, the NBA and NHL playoffs are in full swing, which is the only time — outside of that one COVID-delayed season — when postseason games run concurrently between leagues. (MLB fans aren’t hurting either, with baseball dodging a lockout-shortened season.) While the NBA is closer to crowning a champion, it should continue to be a riveting early summer of basketball and hockey.
CivicScience is tracking postseason viewer habits across both leagues in the ever-changing marketplace for live sports. Traditional models are increasingly ceding ground to official and unofficial streamers, with one in five NBA viewers opting for third-party sites. The NHL is even more splintered, with just under half of all playoff viewers watching games on cable or satellite plans.
One in five NBA fans make an effort to watch most playoff games, with just a hair more than that percentage interested but unable to watch. Compared to MLB fans who’ve cut the cord, NBA fans who have cut the cord or are considering it are less likely to watch most games during the playoffs. That said, NBA fans who are prospective cord-cutters overwhelmingly watch the playoffs to some extent — a notable segment to monitor as postseason sports become even more commonplace to stream.
Although TV ratings are down across the board for nearly every major event, just under 10% of Americans consider themselves very likely to tune into the NBA and NHL championship series. Cryptocurrency investors and prospective investors well outpace the Gen Pop’s likelihood to watch the NBA Finals — which should come as no surprise given the early success of NBA Top Shot, the blockhain-based trading cards and early player in the NFT frenzy.
When it comes to the ease of viewing postseason games, it’s essentially the NFL, and then every other league. Fans of the NBA and NHL, often relegated to the cable channels in the early rounds, face more obstacles to seeing the big games without a cable or satellite plan. If the data’s any indication, many of those fans will still find a way to watch the big games — it’s just a question of how they’ll get there.