NBA All-Star Game can’t top the Pro Bowl in TV ratings

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The Pro Bowl, everyone agrees, stinks. So why does the NFL keep it around?

Because millions of people watch it, because it’s football, and because it’s on TV.

That point was hammered home once again this week when the NBA All-Star Game delivered 7.6 million viewers. That number, which is the combined number of viewers on both TNT and TBS, was touted as a big success for the NBA and an increase over last year. But it’s still short of the Pro Bowl, which saw a huge ratings decrease this year — down to 8 million viewers.

If TNT and TBS are thrilled to share 7.6 million viewers for the NBA All-Star Game, there’s no reason for ESPN not to be thrilled with the 8 million viewers who tuned into the Pro Bowl. And as long as ESPN (or another network) is thrilled enough with the ratings that it’s willing to pay the NFL to broadcast the Pro Bowl, why wouldn’t the NFL keep playing the Pro Bowl?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he’s “disappointed” by the quality of play in the Pro Bowl, and acknowledged that the league needs to find a way to make it a more entertaining game. But it’s hard to see how canceling the whole thing, as some fans have suggested, would be the change the league would make. The game is still a profitable endeavor for the NFL.

Despite the NBA’s increased ratings over last year, All-Star games are declining in popularity across the board: Major League Baseball, which has long had the most popular All-Star game in American sports, saw an all-time low 10.9 million viewers last year on FOX, and ratings for the NBA All Star Game were trending downward until this year. In the old days, fans had few opportunities to see games that didn’t involve their home teams, and so an opportunity to see the biggest stars was a big deal. These days, fans have NFL Sunday Ticket or NBA League Pass or MLB Extra Innings, and they can see all the sports’ biggest stars whenever they want. All-Star games are no longer special.

But while All-Star games aren’t the big deal they once were, they’re not going away any time soon. Not as long as millions of fans continue to watch.

24 responses to “NBA All-Star Game can’t top the Pro Bowl in TV ratings

  1. “Despite the NBA’s increased ratings over last year, All-Star games are declining in popularity across the board…”

    NHL’s All Star game was up 24% over last year’s numbers. Just saying…

  2. Hockeys all star game is by far the best

    Not saying this will make the game super competitive, but maybe the NFL should reward their Pro Bowlers with $250k and $500k purses for those who PLAYED in the game

  3. Maybe but the NBA Dunk contest was crazy this year….both them guys shoulda won as they literally ran out of dunks to do…….NFL Probowl has been a popularity contest of a joke last 10-12 years.

  4. How much does ESPN pay for the Pro Bowl, vs how much does TNT/TBS pay for the NBA all star game? ESPN may not be thrilled with the viewership numbers when compared to the nba all star game because it may not be an apples to apples investment.

  5. As long as the NFL is the #1 pro sport in the country, it will always get more viewers than the other sports. regardless of the quality of the game. It’s not going anywhere.

    Now, if they could put ice skates on the players and have them play the NHL all-stars that might be good for a laugh.

  6. The NBA All-Star game is one of the more enjoyable games for me, the players get to unleash their inner globetrotter for a quarter til they are tired from running back and forth because of the lack of defense. The Skills and other competitions add something to the weekend which Is something I think the NFL should consider instead of the game.

    One thing I would like to the NBA to Consider is going NBA Jam style 2 on 2 or 3 on 3 in a tournament style, and have some of those sponsors that love throwing things at players put togeter a nice prize for the winning team to make it competitive.

  7. “And as long as ESPN (or another network) is thrilled enough with the ratings that it’s willing to pay the NFL to broadcast the Pro Bowl…”

    And there’s the rub: the Pro Bowl wasn’t broadcasted this year, it was narrowcasted on a cable network. Well over 11 million tuned in to the Pro Bowl the final time it was broadcasted back in 2014.

    We all saw the ratings dump TNF took the last two years when CBS had to stop simulcasting the games mid-season.

    The NFL is perfectly happy, even though much smaller audiences watch the games, as long as they get paid.

    But advertisers don’t pay more money for small audiences. With the growing popularity of cable-cutting, cable networks may soon realize they aren’t making enough money to pay for those exclusive rights to transmit games.

    As an aside, the NBA seldom broadcasts regular season games, and they don’t broadcast any playoff games. So by the time The Finals happen – which ARE broadcasted – I don’t even care who’s in it.

    So I don’t watch. Even though I could.

  8. Just like how i havent seen the pro bowl in years, same thing goes with the NBA All star. My roommate had it on, i told him dude better take that nonsense off.

  9. Skills competition would be the best solution for all leagues.

    Chicks dig the long ball and therefore we should only have the home run derby.

    People still enjoy the dunk contest and three point shooting contest way more than the game.

    Frankly, I think that there should be a NFL’s strongest man competition with all of the linemen, 40 yard or one-hundred meter dash is with the skill position players, and throwing competitions with moving targets.

  10. Can’t believe I’m going to type this, but …

    The others need to follow Napoleon Bettman’s lead. The NHL innovated and got both an increased effort, and a good product this year.

  11. simple fix…quit calling it a game. Embrace the reality of the ProBowl. Exalt in the celebration of some of the best players in the nfl. It’s a Pro Bowl Exhibition where FUN rules. Allow players to use their creativity to entertain. Allow all the celebrations that are…wait…in fact, have a category for best td celebration for Team, individual, coach, etc. There are loads of ideas that will present themselves once they get over the fact it’s not a real game.

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