That doesn’t mean just local ratings in the Cleveland market, but higher numbers everywhere. James’ move could result in a ripple effect of other players moving to different markets and amping up their viewers.
The Miami Heat got just this kind of boost in 2010 when James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade to create what was then believed to be an unstoppable trio aiming to win multiple championships. In the next four years, James went to the NBA Finals each time, with the Heat winning the whole shebang twice.
James comes back to Cleveland, his hometown, as one of the all-time feel-good/redemption stories for a big high-profile athlete. After James left Cleveland, his original team, to jump ship to Miami, much angst ensued -- complete with nasty comments from the Cavaliers’ owner and notorious fan activities like burning jerseys and other stinging tributes.
Sports continues to be a draw for TV marketers, especially with ever-more-valuable live programming. Marketers continue to struggle in figuring out how to chase time-shifted viewers and media users on traditional TV and new digital platforms.
What better way of adding more value than having a heart-pulling storyline from a big time sports athlete going home seeking to mend fences?
Seems the NBA still needs something. For the 2013-2014 season, ESPN averaged 1.7 million viewers for its 75 games -- down 5% in viewership from the previous season’s 1.8 million viewers. ABC was down 21%, to 3.6 million viewers, for its 15 games. TNT averaged 1.9 million for 52 games, slightly down from 2.0 the previous year.
This year’s five-game NBA Finals, where San Antonio beat Miami, provided better results -- a 10% rise to 15.5 million average viewers over 15.1 million viewers the year before.
In James’ first five seasons with the Cavaliers, the team’s average TV viewership on Fox Sports Ohio was 78,000 homes. This jumped to 130,000 homes in his final two seasons. Since his departure, the average has been 51,000.
Advertisers -- both locally and nationally -- will get a lot for their money next season, including messaging in the Quicken Loans Arena where the Cavaliers play. Choose your obvious trite words from all of this as sports networks have already started salivating: Slam dunk, easy layup, and no blocked shots. Lots to root for -- even for Miami fans.