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Should the NBA hold more games earlier in the day for international audiences?

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NBA: Indiana Pacers at Denver Nuggets Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: The NBA reached out to us to clarify their efforts to reach international basketball fans. The games on Sunday afternoons are targeted to attract a European television audience without negatively affecting attendance stateside. 25 games were aired last season on Sunday afternoons in the 2016-17 NBA season. The Wizards played two weekend games that were in the early to mid afternoon last year, on December 18, 2016 against the Clippers and January 8, 2017 against the Bucks.

The original post was never intended to imply that the NBA isn’t making any effort to attract international basketball fans who watch on television or online. However, we are asking whether the NBA should increase its efforts to air more games in the early afternoon on weekdays or even on Saturdays.

But here’s a question for everyone here. When the NBA holds games at 1 p.m. Eastern Time or 7 p.m. Central European Time, it’s early in the morning in East Asian countries like China and the Philippines where basketball is arguably more popular than here in the USA. No one’s going to “win” the time battle, but what options besides holding games in China and the Philippines that can help fans in East Asia watch live NBA games at a more convenient hour?

The original post is below.


The NBA has held regular season games annually in the United Kingdom and preseason games in other European countries such as France, Spain, and Turkey. Though we’re still several years away from having a European NBA division anytime soon, that isn’t slowing down the NBA from exploring more ways to make the game friendlier to European audiences and elsewhere around the world.

So far this summer, you may have noticed that WNBA teams regularly hold one to three weekday games a season between 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time. From a local standpoint, those games are held during the midday for school groups or children in summer camps. But in most of western and central Europe, those games would be in the late afternoon to early evening.

With that in mind, I’m wondering if this will be experimented in the NBA anytime soon. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of holding games in America earlier in the day.”

Advantages

  • These games would be convenient to more international audiences, especially in Europe. The Central European Time zone consists of most of western, central, and eastern continental Europe. So a game at 2 p.m. ET locally would be at 8 p.m. in cities like Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, and Prague.
  • To boost local attendance, perhaps these games could have a promotion with them of some kind if they are during the weekdays.
  • Let’s also keep in mind that the NBA wouldn’t be the first major American sports league to hold games in the afternoon. Major League Baseball teams already hold some weekday games in the early afternoon and regularly hold Saturday and Sunday games during these times.

Disadvantages

  • Any weekday game in the early afternoon on a non-federal holiday will be inconvenient for many of the home arena’s ticket holders. Can you imagine a 2 p.m. game at Verizon Center on a Wednesday? When the game at ends between 4:15 to 4:30 p.m., people are leaving right as rush hour begins. Ugh!
  • Local TV ratings can suffer in the United States because the games are held locally. Sure, there will be more Europeans, Africans, and Asians watching games because they are held during a more convenient hour. I’d imagine that nationally televised games on ESPN or TNT will never be an early afternoon game.
  • The USA is a big country where teams are in four different time zones. Washington is six hours behind Central European Time, but teams in California and Oregon are nine hours behind the Central European Time Zone. So a game at 8 p.m. Central European Time would be held at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

My take

The NBA is the most global sports league in America. Even though I don’t see Western European teams in the near future, I do think it’s a wise idea to hold more games earlier in the day to attract more viewers around the world. That said, it’s a better idea for NBA teams to hold these types of games during the weekend because weekday afternoon games are a recipe for some major traffic jams.

Poll

Should the NBA hold more games earlier in the day for international audiences?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    Yes, whenever possible
    (29 votes)
  • 65%
    Yes, only on weekends
    (98 votes)
  • 14%
    No, they shouldn’t
    (22 votes)
149 votes total Vote Now