The Golden State Warriors' 26-1 start, including 23 straight wins to begin the season, not only has them atop the NBA standings, but their telecasts on CSN Bay Area are attracting record audiences for both national and local advertisers. And bringing in a windfall of ad revenue to the regional cable network.
Season-to-date, the Warriors games’ household ratings are averaging a 7.6 and that’s 101% higher than last year’s ratings and on pace to be the highest-rated season ever for the team. And it’s not only the game telecast ratings that are up. The Warriors Pregame Live show is up 50% compared to last season, while the Warrior Postgame Live show is up 144%.
CSN Bay Area also streams every Warriors game, which it sells separate ad packages for, and the Dec. 18 game was visited by 23,971 viewers who watched some 1.1 million minutes of the live streamed game. That was the third time a streamed game telecast was watched for more than 1 million minutes this season.
Ray Warren, chief revenue officer of NBC Sports Regional Networks, who oversees the Comcast Sports Networks, says not only are viewers watching the streaming telecasts but the average person is watching for more than 40 minutes each, not just tuning in and out as many sports streaming viewers do.
All of this should have advertisers excited – and it does. National advertising in the Warrior telecasts is sold by Home Team Sports, which sells ads to national marketers for the Fox RSNs, some of the Comcast RSNs, MSG and NESN, and it has brought in national advertisers this season like Taco Bell and Jack Daniels. And the CSN sales staff has brought in new advertisers like First National Bank, Ring Central, Bank of the West, Togo’s, First 5 of California and Wingstop.
In addition, spot advertisers that were converted to full-season sponsors across the telecasts and related Warriors programming include Jeep, Dodge, BMW, Ford and Provident Credit Union.
What has been interesting is that the ratings for games following the Warriors first and only loss on Dec. 12 have actually grown. The household rating for that Warriors’ loss to the Milwaukee Brewers was a 9.96. On December 16, the Warriors set a new high in households with an 11.4 rating and then on Dec. 18 drew a household rating of 11.1.
The Warriors telecasts are not only drawing men, but lots of women too, along with solid viewership across all the age demos. The Dec. 18 telecast drew an 5.29 adult 18-49 demo rating, a 5.78 adult 18-49 demo rating and an adult 25-54 demo rating of 7.06. Those ratings were up 92%, 85% and 91%, respectively, compared to last season’s average ratings in those demos.
And while the male demo ratings were up between 68% and 77%, the female demo ratings were up between 112% and 124%. Among women 18-34, the demo rating for that game was a 6.65. For women 18-49 it was a 7.28 and for women 25-54 it was a 5.8.
“We are the most-watched network in the market overall and in every male and female demo in primetime every time we televise a Warriors game,” Warren says. “It’s like the pot was starting to boil last year when we would get a ratings pop here and there. But this season viewership started strong from the first game and has continued through the first two months of the season. This year people hopped on board sooner. We got both returning fans and along the way, new viewers have tuned in in bigger numbers. We are doing 7.0 household ratings while all the other broadcast and cable networks are doing 1s, 2s and 3s.”
Warren, who’s been around the ad industry for a while as president of media agency Carat, managing director of OMD and president and CEO of Raycom Sports, says he’s rarely seen such a huge jump in ratings at the RSN sports level year over year.
“In pro sports at the RSNs, these types of ratings increases are unique,” he says. “I think in addition to the strong play of the Warriors, it has a lot to do with the city of San Francisco and the Bay area embracing all sports on a broader level. The Giants have won a couple of World Series, the 49ers have been good in football over the years and now we have the Warriors with the best record in the NBA after winning the championship last season. San Francisco is starting to become an all-sports town like Boston, New York and Philadelphia.”
Last season, only two NBA teams finished the season with household ratings higher than the Warriors are producing to date. FS Southwest, which televises the San Antonio Spurs games, averaged an 8.36 household rating, and FS Ohio, which televises the Cleveland Cavalier games averaged a 7.94. The Spurs currently have the second best record in the NBA behind the Warriors. And the Cavs, who the Warriors defeated in the NBA Championship series last season, have the third best record this season.
This season to date, the Cavaliers' telecasts have the highest household ratings with a 9.1, followed b the Spurs with an 8.2 and then the Warriors with a 7.6. However the Warriors have the largest percentage of increase in viewership among them.
Warren says his local sales staff has also gone out and sold CSN sports to local advertisers and the female audience in particular. And he said the effort to bring in more advertisers who want to reach female viewers on the Warriors telecasts has worked. He says advertisers like Subaru, Sleep Train and First 5 of California, along with retailers like Mancini’s have come on board.
Warren believes that the Bay Area marketplace has a lot of young, tech savvy sports viewers who are also a good target for advertisers, particular via the streaming telecasts. He said major automakers like Mercedes and Kia are among the sponsors of the streaming telecasts.
Warren says as a result of the ratings increases over the past few years, and this year in particular, ad rates have tripled but so have the ratings. “We aren’t pounding anyone with our rates,” he says. “Rates have gone up, but so have ratings.”
So can marketers still take advantage of this rapid Warriors audience? Warren says there are still avails throughout the remainder of the season. “We’re not 100% sold out of all the games,” he says. “Some games are sold out, but we can always find ways to work advertisers in.”
In addition to there being close to 60 regular season games left, the network is trying to get advertisers to buy advertising across all the Warriors programming, not just the in-game telecasts. Warren says the goal is also to get advertisers to become regular sponsors and not just buy isolated in-game units. And that strategy seems to be working.