The Washington Wizards open the second half of the NBA season tonight with a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. In a departure from the usual way of things, the Wizards will be shown on CSN+, while the Capitals get the prime slot on CSN for their game against the Islanders.
Back when we lived in New York, we used to marvel at how MSG Network would always bump the usually-decent Rangers in favor of the always-terrible Knicks whenever the two played at the same time. In retrospect, we shouldn't have been surprised. D.C., like New York and most of the rest of America, is hoops country, and if these local TV ratings are any guide, people love that the NBA is back.
According to Sports Business Journal, from whence these ratings come, local NBA TV ratings are up 19 percent. Of course, it helps when you have surging big-market teams in Los Angeles (Clippers ratings are up 138 percent on average), Philadelphia (76ers ratings are up 112 percent), and New York (Knicks ratings are up 71 percent).
And on the other end of the spectrum, you have the Wizards, who, despite having decent ticket sales, are not attracting any eyeballs. The Wizards are second-bottom in overall ratings (1.13, ahead of only New Jersey) and fourth-bottom in both average number of households (27,000, ahead of only Memphis, Milwaukee, and Charlotte), and average rating change (down 20 percent; only Boston, Phoenix, and Houston have seen a bigger drop).
It's not irreconcilable that the Wizards would be strong at the box office and struggling at the cable box. It's one thing when you can pay your way in and enjoy G-Wiz and the Wizards Girls and appreciate how fast and balletic the game is in person and make a night of it. It's quite another when it's just you, sitting in your room with other things to do. And with all due respect to Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier, they're a lot less pleasant to look at than the Wizards Girls.