Coming off record ratings and ad sales for its postseason Major League Baseball telecasts, Turner is now pacing ahead of last season in its NBA telecast sales as the season opens on Tuesday night with a TNT doubleheader.
TNT, which will again televise 53 NBA games this season, has currently sold 5% more TV commercial ad volume for the season than it sold last year at this point. And NBA TV, which Turner also sells, is pacing 12% ahead of last season’s ad sales. NBA.com, which Turner also manages and sells, is currently pacing 46% more in ad volume compared to last season.
Jon Diament, executive VP of Turner Sports ad sales & marketing, finds the numbers exceptional because last season just prior to the start of the telecast schedule, TNT had sold more ad inventory than it had since it began televising NBA games 30 years ago. Now those totals are being surpassed.
“Last season we had the major storyline of LeBron James moving from the Miami Heat to the Cleveland Cavaliers and everything surrounding that and it turned out to be one of our strongest seasons ever,” he says. “So for us to be pacing ahead of that is really pretty good.”
And much like last season, it’s not really the ratings that are driving marketers to jump into the NBA in a big way. Despite James and the success he had in driving the Cavaliers into the NBA Finals, regular season ratings were stifled a bit by the poor seasons had by teams in some of the largest markets from teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and New York Knicks.
Just how much of an impact did those teams’ games have on TNT’s ratings? The network’s games involving the Celtics declined 42% in the ratings from the previous season. Its Knicks telecasts fell 19% and its Laker outings declined 13%.
TNT, despite those ratings declines by some of the once marquee teams, held steady in its overall viewership last season, averaging 2 million viewers for its Thursday night games, and for its complete 53-game regular season schedule averaged 1.9 million viewers, down just 100,000 from the 2013-14 season. Much of that was boosted by Cavaliers and (eventual champion) Golden State Warriors telecasts among others. But advertisers continue to love to be in the major lives sports telecasts, including the NBA. Why is the NBA so popular among marketers?
Diament says the NBA games are not only live and DVR-proof for the most part, but the audience is younger than both the NFL and college football audience and is a better target for millennial consumers. He says fourth quarter is also a time when many marketers want to reach consumers for the upcoming holidays and the Thursday nights are particularly attractive to target weekend shoppers.
Another element to the NBA’s popularity among marketers, he says, is that the NBA players are heavy users of social media, where they interact with the fans and where the younger fans can follow them off the court, before and after games.
Turner is not only selling its own digital site to NBA advertisers, but also NBA.TV and the NBA portion of Bleacher Report. Those sites are sold in separate negotiations from the TV advertising. “The pricing is different and in most instances the commercials the marketers run are different too,” Diament says.
Turner over the past few seasons has also been partnering with the NBA to produce outside activations surrounding the NBA premiere week TV telecasts, including concerts at the game locations and other live events. Then it sells brand sponsorships and allows marketers to set up booths and product displays at the events.
While Diament says virtually 100% of the marketers advertising on TNT are also on NBA TV, the amount of spending in different categories varies.
The top five categories to date as far as ad spending for the TNT NBA game telecasts are automotive, financial, food and restaurants, computers and electronics, and insurance.
New advertisers for this season on TNT include LG, MetroPCS, Walmart, FanDuel and Verizon, among others.
Top five on NBA TV in order include computers and electronics, beer and distilled spirits, food and restaurants, automotive and insurance.
New advertisers on NBA TV for the coming season include Hotels.com, Bethesda Networks, AutoZone and Liberty Mutual, among others.
Top ad spending categories on NBA.com this season so far are computer hardware and software companies, electronic games, automotive, financial and business services and transportation and travel. New advertisers on NBA.com include Bethesda Networks, AutoZone, Comedy Central and Marriott Hotels.
New NBA league partner Mountain Dew will be the presenting sponsor of the TNT-NBA opening night concert at Pier 43 in San Francisco. The event’s stage and musical performance will be sponsored by Mountain Dew and portions of the performance will be integrated into the TNT pre-game broadcast and in various segments throughout the evening’s game telecast.
AutoTrader recently renewed a multiyear partnership with the NBA and Turner Sports and will continue to have a significant presence across the TNT and NBA TV telecasts throughout the season, beginning with opening night.
AutoTrader will sponsor TNT Opening Night and NBA on TNT Premiere Week. The brand will also sponsor both the TNT and NBA TV pre-game shows – NBA Tip-Off Presented by AutoTrader on TNT and NBA TV’s AutoTrader Pregame Show.
AutoTrader will also continue its All-Star Drive & Drive to the Finals consumer sweepstakes with on-air, digital and social media extensions.
Kia will continue as the season-long sponsor of Inside the NBA presented by Kia on TNT, as well as all the Inside the NBA content on NBA.com throughout the season. And Kia will be presenting sponsor of NBA TV’s NBA GameTime presented by Kia post-game coverage each night.
Samsung will return as the presenting sponsor of several NBA-related programs and play a role in the Opening Night event in San Francisco with on-site, on-air and social media promotions.
A 40-foot court made of LED screens will be created at Pier 43 and will be powered by the new Samsung Gear 52 smartwatch. Activities on that court throughout Opening Day will include appearances by former NBA stars, NBA basketball clinics and shoot-arounds, skills challenges and other fan participation activities.
Samsung will also sponsor The Samsung Experience, where it will afford fans the opportunity to see and test all of its mobile products. And the brand will also return as season-long sponsor of The NBA Style digital platform, as well as sponsor of NBA TV’s NBA Inside Stuff presented by Samsung Galaxy.
Diament says the NBA All-Star game in February has about 20% of in-game commercial inventory still available but says since the game has sold out in past seasons, marketers who want to get into the game with scatter ad buys should not wait that long.
TNT tips off the NBA regular season with an opening night doubleheader on Tuesday, Oct. 27 but the NBA studio team of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal will begin broadcasting live from Pier 43 at 4 p.m. and do their pre-game, halftime and post-game shows from there.
Leading into the live game telecasts will be the NBA on TNT Opening Night Concert Charged by Dew.
The 8 p.m. game will feature the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Chicago Bulls, followed by the 10:30 p.m. game with the New Orleans Pelicans visiting the world champion Golden State Warriors. TNT will also televise a doubleheader on Thursday, Oct. 29, featuring the Atlanta Hawks vs. New York Knicks at 9 p.m. and the Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Clippers at 10:30 p.m.
On Wednesday, Oct. 28, NBA TV will debut a new studio show, NBA Crunch Time that will primarily air on Wednesday and Fridays between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. during the season.