Air Ball: How Lakers' Losses Impact Ratings

Lakers Kobe Bryant - P 2013
AP Photo/Daniel Johnston

Lakers Kobe Bryant - P 2013

The team's losing record means it could miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005 despite its $4 billion, 20-year deal with Time Warner Cable.

This story first appeared in the March 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Is the Los Angeles Lakers' less-than-stellar season hurting the team's TV ratings? The answer is yes and no.

More than halfway through the NBA season, Kobe Bryant and crew remain a strong draw on L.A.-area television despite a losing record (28-30 as of Feb. 27) and the possibility that the team won't make the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

Games on TWC SportsNet, the team's network that launched in October with Time Warner Cable as part of a 20-year deal reportedly worth $4 billion, are averaging a 4.5 rating when English and Spanish broadcasts are counted. (If one measures only games since DirecTV began carrying SportsNet about a month into the season, that number rises to a 4.6.) By contrast, the 22 home games aired during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season on Fox Sports West in L.A. averaged a slightly higher 4.7.

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However, there are a few caveats. Lakers road games previously were carried by free broadcast channel KCAL in L.A. and averaged a 6.2 rating -- not surprisingly, much higher than SportsNet generates. But this season's Lakers home games, which are most directly comparable to the games Fox Sports West aired last season, are averaging a 5.6 rating, a big uptick. The mixed results for the Lakers come as pro basketball overall is enjoying a strong season on television.

TNT, which carries games mostly on Thursdays, is on pace to deliver the network's third-most-viewed NBA season in a decade, and games on ABC are on pace with 2011-12. And ratings for the Lakers' Staples Center rivals, the L.A. Clippers -- tops in the Pacific Division with a 41-18 record -- are up 56 percent, though still nowhere near the Lakers' numbers.