Aug 23, 2023 - Sports

The Spurs are back on national TV. Here's what that means for San Antonio

Illustration of a basketball on a wall of repeating television screen.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

For the first time in years, the Spurs have a notable presence on the national broadcast schedule with 19 matchups — an early gauge of Victor Wembanyama's effect on San Antonio.

Driving the news: The Spurs released the regular season schedule last week. San Antonio will be the host city for 11 of the games that will air on NBA TV, ESPN or TNT.

Why it matters: National exposure has dwindled since the Spurs' 2014 championship. San Antonio has evolved while being out of the sports spotlight, and the new opportunity gives the city a chance to reintroduce itself to a larger audience.

  • City leaders hope that putting landmarks, businesses and fans in the national lens will translate into a renewed interest in San Antonio as a destination for tourism and events.

For context: The commemorative Alamodome game in January was the only nationally broadcast game during the 2022-2023 season, which ended with the Spurs posting the third-worst record. The season before that, there were five Spurs games on national TV.

Yes, but: Nineteen national spots is significantly less than that of the Golden State Warriors (41) or the Denver Nuggets (30).

  • The New Orleans Pelicans had 30 nationally televised games during Zion Williamson's rookie season, who attracted Wemby-like hype during the 2019 draft.

But, but, but: The Warriors and Nuggets are recent NBA Champions, so the coverage makes sense.

Zoom in: Visit San Antonio is anticipating a boost in tourism tied to key games, CEO Marc Anderson tells Axios.

  • Visit San Antonio will focus on social media and digital marketing efforts closer to the start of the season to leverage the opportunity and direct visitors to destinations or stays, Anderson says.
  • Even games that aren't on the national TV schedule, like the New Year's Eve game against the Boston Celtics, are on Anderson's radar. He hopes visitors will extend the holiday weekend while in town for the game.

By the numbers: More than 100 restaurants opened in San Antonio between July 2020 and July 2022, and more than a dozen hotels have broken ground from 2020 to date, according to the tourism department.

What they're saying: San Antonio Sports CEO Jenny Carnes tells Axios the national attention can also benefit local sports culture.

  • She feels like a new generation of Spurs fans might be more motivated to pick up a ball, much like kids who grew up during the Big Three era.
  • Carnes also thinks putting San Antonio in front of the national sports community will position the city to host more events, even outside of basketball.
  • "It only helps our mission to bring big events to our community. It puts us on a national map, it gives us broader media exposure, and that's a value you can't even really put a dollar figure on," she says.

What's next: ESPN will air the Spurs Oct. 25 home opener against the Dallas Mavericks, with Wembanyama's highly anticipated debut.


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