Mar 10, 2020 - Sports

The NBA floats a reimagining of the sports calendar

gif of a pointer finger balancing a spinning calendar
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

With TV viewership down, the NBA is weighing all kinds of ideas to rejuvenate its regular season — like fewer games or a midseason tournament — and it's even open to making basketball more of a summer sport.

Driving the news: During a panel at this past weekend's MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin proposed starting the NBA season in mid-December rather than mid-October.

  • Koonin believes such a shift would allow the NBA to avoid having to compete with the NFL and college football's regular seasons, which it currently does for the first 2.5 months of each campaign.
  • It would also result in the NBA Finals taking place in August rather than June, giving the league an opportunity to dominate more of the summer months when the only other show in town is baseball.

What he's saying:

"We have built the architecture of our season based on the ad market, not based on the consumer. ... The reason the Finals are in June is because there are more ad dollars in the second [fiscal] quarter. Why? It doesn't exist anymore."
— Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin

Why it matters: Koonin simply proposing this change would not have been news. But right after he mentioned it, a league executive said the NBA was open to such an idea — evidence of the league's willingness to shake things up.

"We certainly have no issue with reconsidering the calendar. ... We're open to that ... there's no magic to [the season going from] October to June."
— Evan Wasch, NBA senior VP of strategy and analytics

The big picture: There's one land grab left in the crowded American sports calendar, and it's the six to eight weeks in July and August.

  • Even in World Cup and Olympic years, it remains relatively quiet compared to the football-crazed fall or the madness of March.

Go deeper: NBA viewership down from last year across ESPN, TNT

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