For years, growing interest around the NBA has focused on the post-season -- starting in mid-April and running through mid-June.
The problem is that much of this can diminish excitement in much of the regular-season activity -- especially in the opening weeks that just started up this month.
To that end, some teams -- in March -- end up pulling their star players off the court in regular-season games to give them some rest for the all-important post-season playoffs.
But where does all this leave those fans of those regular-season games?
Now, the league has come up with an "in-season” tournament to spur interest -- the NBA Cup -- a month-long event that runs concurrently with the regular-season games. The idea is to generate early-season interest and excitement especially for the early October to December regular season period.
The point? To boost TV viewership and subsequent advertising revenue.
In the 2022/23 season, 1.59 million Nielsen-measured viewers watched NBA regular-season games across ABC, ESPN and TNT -- a slight decline versus the previous year.
This year so far, the first two national TV opening games of the new NBA 2023-2024 season -- Lakers-Nuggets, Suns-Warriors -- averaged 2.78 million Nielsen-average viewers.
The NBA would like to grow viewership and engagement amid the fall/winter period, where there can be lots of sports interest -- especially the NFL. There is also college football and the NHL.
The NFL especially continues to dominate all TV viewing in these fall and winter months -- not just sports -- averaging around 16 million to 17 million per national TV game.
Don't believe for a minute that the NBA can compete directly with the NFL during this period -- for its viewers or for its brands. However, imagine that the NBA just wants to take a bigger bite of the large overall fourth-quarter viewership to gain some early-season buzz.
The tournament runs from November 3- 28, with a championship on December 9.
For sure, this is only just a month. These NBA Cup/’In-tournament’ games will be played on Tuesday and Friday -- days of the week where the NFL doesn't play.
But they will also count toward the total 82-game game schedule. The end of the tournament in early December means little conflict against the last big week of the year.
The NBA is probably hoping for a nice early Christmas present.