NBA All-Star Ratings Climb With New Format, Kobe Bryant Tributes

NBA All-Star game - Getty - H 2020
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Ratings for the NBA's All-Star Game and associated events improved over 2019, bucking a downward trend in the league's regular-season TV package.

Sunday's game — which featured tributes to the late Kobe Bryant and changes to the game's format to up the competitive factor — averaged 7.3 million viewers on TNT and TBS, an 8 percent improvement on the 6.8 million who watched the 2019 contest. Numbers for TNT's Saturday coverage and Friday-night events on ESPN and TNT also rose slightly.

The improved ratings for the All-Star Game go against a season-long trend for the league. Regular season games are down double digits across broadcast partners ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBA TV, though recent weeks have shown some positive signs. 

The increased viewership for the game stops two years of declines; last year's contest had the smallest audience since 2008.

The All-Star Game featured a new format in which the two teams played for local charities in Chicago: The winner of each of the first three quarters earned $100,000 for charity. The fourth quarter was untimed and had teams shooting for a total score — the leading team's total after three quarters plus 24 points — the "24" in tribute to one of the jersey numbers of Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in late January.

The game's most valuable player award was also renamed in honor of Bryant, and the two teams wore No. 24 and No. 2, the latter in memory of Bryant's daughter Gianna, who also died in the crash.

The weekend's other events also saw small ratings upticks. TNT's All-Star Saturday Night, including the slam dunk contest and three-point shooting contest, drew 5.1 million viewers, up from 5.02 million in 2019. Friday's celebrity game on ESPN rose 9 percent to 1.45 million viewers, and the Rising Stars Challenge on TNT Friday ticked up 1 percent to 1.48 million viewers.