Friday, May 6, 2022

NBA Playoffs Ratings and Out-of-Home

One of the major talking points on Sports Media Twitter recently has been the ratings for the 2022 NBA Playoffs, and in particular, how much of an impact out-of-home ratings have had in ballooning the viewership figures.

Nielsen began measuring out-of-home viewership in mid-2017, but initially would report those numbers separately from the linear ratings they put out each day. In September 2020, they began combining the out-of-home numbers with the daily linear numbers and reporting them as one. For scripted programming ratings this likely has had a negligible impact, but for sports programming - where communal viewing is much more common - there is a sizable impact. But how much exactly?

I've been wanting to interrogate this question for a while, and since the first round of the NBA playoffs just concluded, I thought those numbers could be an interesting way of approaching it. Since Nielsen doesn't break out in-home vs. out-of-home ratings, the only way I've figured out how to go about it is by comparing household (HH) data and total viewership from previous years and estimating.

The HH rating is the only Nielsen metric that has been untouched by the inclusion out-of-home ratings (as it obviously only measures viewing within the home). It's Nielsen's oldest metric and one that has generally fallen out of favor (I personally stopped reporting it in 2019) as a variety of more specific measures have come into practice. Its use now is more for historical comparisons, but because it measures only viewing within households, it consequently helps estimate out-of-home viewing.

In looking at the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the obvious choice for a comparison is 2019 as that was the most-recent year that the playoffs happened at their normal time and before out-of-home was included. The 2020 playoffs did not have out-of-home included, but they occurred many months out of season due to COVID while the 2021 playoffs did have out-of-home included and were also a month later than normal. Using 2019 as the comparison isolates out-of-home as the key variable for any significant changes in numbers.

First, let's look at the raw numbers for each of the games. I've included the HH rating and total viewership for each game of both the 2019 and 2022 first rounds, and I used the HH Universe Estimates for both years (119.9 million in 2019 & 122.4 million in 2022) to estimate the the total number of households (in millions) based on the HH rating. Because we have the HH ratings to 2-decimal places, the margin-of-error for the HHs estimate is only 0.006 million in either direction.

2019 NBA Playoffs First Round
Per Home
April 13, 2019Magic/RaptorsESPN1.531.8342.4441.33
April 13, 2019Nets/76ersESPN1.321.5832.0431.29
April 13, 2019Warriors/ClippersABC2.973.5614.8261.36
April 13, 2019Spurs/NuggetsESPN1.141.3671.8281.34
April 14, 2019Bucks/PistonsTNT1.641.9662.6631.35
April 14, 2019Pacers/CelticsTNT1.161.3911.8061.30
April 14, 2019Thunder/BlazersABC2.553.0573.8971.27
April 14, 2019Jazz/RocketsTNT1.902.2783.0401.33
April 15, 2019Nets/76ersTNT1.822.1822.8461.30
April 15, 2019Warriors/ClippersTNT1.852.2182.7711.25
April 16, 2019Magic/RaptorsTNT1.451.7392.2391.29
April 16, 2019Spurs/NuggetsNBA-TV0.260.3120.4221.35
April 16, 2019Thunder/BlazersTNT1.722.0622.5941.26
April 17, 2019Bucks/PistonsNBA-TV0.220.2640.3521.33
April 17, 2019Pacers/CelticsTNT1.411.6912.1611.28
April 17, 2019Jazz/RocketsTNT1.692.0262.5781.27
April 18, 2019Nets/76ersTNT1.842.2062.9281.33
April 18, 2019Warriors/ClippersTNT2.172.6023.3221.28
April 18, 2019Spurs/NuggetsNBA-TV0.220.2640.3321.26
April 19, 2019Magic/RaptorsESPN1.051.2591.6321.30
April 19, 2019Pacers/CelticsABC1.732.0742.7171.31
April 19, 2019Thunder/BlazersESPN1.601.9182.5181.31
April 20, 2019Bucks/PistonsESPN1.531.8342.4811.35
April 20, 2019Nets/76ersTNT1.391.6672.1331.28
April 20, 2019Spurs/NuggetsTNT1.772.1222.7811.31
April 20, 2019Jazz/RocketsESPN1.952.3383.1931.37
April 21, 2019Magic/RaptorsTNT1.631.9542.6931.38
April 21, 2019Pacers/CelticsABC2.422.9023.8371.32
April 21, 2019Warriors/ClippersABC3.814.5686.2941.38
April 21, 2019Thunder/BlazersTNT2.262.7103.7441.38
April 22, 2019Bucks/PistonsTNT1.872.2422.8111.25
April 22, 2019Jazz/RocketsTNT1.972.3622.9631.25
April 23, 2019Magic/RaptorsNBA-TV0.230.2760.3641.32
April 23, 2019Nets/76ersTNT1.471.7632.2751.29
April 23, 2019Spurs/NuggetsNBA-TV0.320.3840.4901.28
April 23, 2019Thunder/BlazersTNT2.012.4103.1121.29
April 24, 2019Warriors/ClippersTNT2.623.1414.0911.30
April 24, 2019Jazz/RocketsTNT2.162.5903.3711.30
April 25, 2019Spurs/NuggetsTNT1.171.4031.8041.29
April 26, 2019Warriors/ClippersESPN2.372.8423.7131.31
April 27, 2019Spurs/NuggetsTNT2.222.6623.4921.31

2022 NBA Playoffs First Round
Per Home
April 16, 2022Raptors/76ersESPN1.942.3753.5981.52
April 16, 2022Timberwolves/GrizzliesESPN1.922.3503.3581.43
April 16, 2022Warriors/NuggetsABC2.442.9874.5201.51
April 16, 2022Jazz/MavericksESPN1.341.6402.3351.42
April 17, 2022Hawks/HeatTNT1.311.6032.6681.66
April 17, 2022Nets/CelticsABC3.083.7706.8951.83
April 17, 2022Bulls/BucksTNT2.222.7174.7721.76
April 17, 2022Pelicans/SunsTNT2.032.4854.0161.62
April 18, 2022Raptors/76ersTNT1.682.0562.7381.33
April 18, 2022Warriors/NuggetsTNT1.932.3623.2161.36
April 18, 2022Jazz/MavericksNBA TV0.300.3670.5141.40
April 19, 2022Hawks/HeatTNT1.621.9832.7041.36
April 19, 2022Pelicans/SunsTNT1.762.1542.9431.37
April 19, 2022Timberwolves/GrizzliesNBA TV0.360.4410.6451.46
April 20, 2022Nets/CelticsTNT2.212.7053.9561.46
April 20, 2022Bulls/BucksTNT1.912.3383.2301.38
April 20, 2022Raptors/76ersNBA TV0.380.4650.6271.35
April 21, 2022Timberwolves/GrizzliesTNT1.832.2403.1951.43
April 21, 2022Warriors/NuggetsTNT2.182.6683.7011.39
April 21, 2022Jazz/MavericksNBA TV0.270.3300.4201.27
April 22, 2022Hawks/HeatESPN1.431.7502.5241.44
April 22, 2022Bulls/BucksABC1.161.4201.9321.36
April 22, 2022Pelicans/SunsESPN1.822.2283.1741.42
April 23, 2022Nets/CelticsESPN2.503.0604.6241.51
April 23, 2022Raptors/76ersTNT1.201.4692.0581.40
April 23, 2022Timberwolves/GrizzliesESPN2.062.5213.6981.47
April 23, 2022Jazz/MavericksTNT1.712.0933.1191.49
April 24, 2022Hawks/HeatTNT1.852.2643.4921.54
April 24, 2022Bulls/BucksABC2.082.5463.5711.40
April 24, 2022Pelicans/SunsTNT2.052.5093.7691.50
April 24, 2022Warriors/NuggetsABC3.223.9415.8641.49
April 25, 2022Nets/CelticsTNT2.252.7543.5061.27
April 25, 2022Raptors/76ersNBA TV0.290.3550.5421.53
April 25, 2022Jazz/MavericksTNT1.832.2402.9221.30
April 26, 2022Hawks/HeatNBA TV0.370.4530.6131.35
April 26, 2022Pelicans/SunsTNT2.062.5213.4671.38
April 26, 2022Timberwolves/GrizzliesTNT1.782.1792.8981.33
April 27, 2022Bulls/BucksTNT1.642.0072.7171.35
April 27, 2022Warriors/NuggetsTNT2.442.9874.0171.35
April 28, 2022Raptors/76ersNBA TV0.340.4160.6271.51
April 28, 2022Pelicans/SunsTNT1.561.9092.6521.39
April 28, 2022Jazz/MavericksTNT1.872.2893.2141.40
April 29, 2022Timberwolves/GrizzliesESPN1.982.4243.4741.43

It's immediately noticeable that the HH figures are virtually identical between the 2 years, with 2022 actually up slightly. The first round in 2019 averaged a 1.67 HH rating (or about 2.001 million) while in 2022 it averaged a 1.68 rating (or about 2.055 million) - a difference of less than 3% in total households. The real difference is in total viewership, which rose nearly 14% from 2.62 million in 2019 to 2.99 million in 2022.

Per Home
2019 Average1.672.0012.6241.31
2022 Average1.682.0552.9891.44
% Rise2.73%13.89%10.05%

Households are a fairly reliable way of estimating total viewership as long as you have an idea of how many viewers-per-home (VPH) a particular type of programming usually maintains. The VPH can vary based on genre, but within a single genre - it is usually fairly consistent. For example, FOX comedies have historically had a high viewers-per-home ratio. For NBA Playoff basketball, the VPH estimate in 2019 was about 1.31, so generally, one could multiply the the number of households by 1.31 and have a pretty close estimate for the total number of viewers. And that 1.31 number is not unique to 2019 - you can go back several years and find that ~1.3 VPH has been pretty standard for NBA playoffs (it was 1.32 for the 2018 playoffs).

But in 2022, that number appears to rise to 1.44 VPH on-average which obviously isn't true. This excess viewership is out-of-home. But how does that translate into raw viewership?

In order to estimate the break-out of in-home vs. out-of-home viewership for the 2022 games, I used the 1.31 VPH from 2019 and applied it to the household figures from 2022. And with that, it looks like out-of-home accounted for about 10% of the total reported viewership (or about 300,000 on-average) while the comparable viewership number to 2019 is about 2.69 million. 

2022 NBA Playoffs
First Round
In-Home Estimate2.69089.99%
Out-of-Home Estimate0.29910.01%

That's still a slight viewership rise from 2019 of about 2.5% which is much more in-line with the rise in households which I estimated at 2.7%. 

Source: Nielsen Media Research via ShowBuzzDaily

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