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Oversaturated playoffs make for dull viewing

Photo Source: NY Daily News
Charles Barkley, former NBA great and current NBA analyst, enjoying a Stanley Cup Finals game.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – The NBA Playoffs have been a total bore. The Golden State Warriors are primed to win their second championship in three years. The Warriors also are on the brink of sweeping Cleveland in the Finals, and if they accomplish that tonight, they will have swept every team in this year’s playoffs.

Even Charles Barkley, an NBA Hall of Famer and studio analyst for TNT, said the NBA playoffs have been humdrum.

“I’m just glad to be here because the NBA playoffs have not been great, but the Stanley Cup playoffs have been amazing,” Barkley said during a recent visit to a Stanley Cup playoff game.

The Stanley Cup playoffs have been more challenging as Pittsburgh leads Nashville 3 games to 2, with each team holding serve on home ice. The Stanley Cup playoffs aren’t always exciting, either. Twenty sweeps have occurred in 91 years.

There are too many games in the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball playoffs, which is dull.

After 82 regular season games covering six months, the NBA playoffs take another two months to crown a champion. Four rounds of best of seven formats. If a team is extended through the entire seven games in each series, that’s 110 games of basketball. Looks like 98 games, if Golden State completes the sweep tonight.

The NHL is even longer as it begins in mid-October and ends in mid-April, about two weeks longer than the NBA season. The NHL has the same number of regular season and playoffs games as the NBA.

Major League Baseball plays 162 games from April to October. The divisional championships consist of the best of five games, and the AL and NL championship series are the best of seven. So, there could be an additional 13 games; 19 if a team arises from the Wild Card round.

The playoffs of those sports are oversaturated. The NFL, college football, and NCAA basketball playoffs have it right—one-and-done.

The argument is that television brings in revenue with all of those games in the NBA, NHL, and MLB.


The loftiest rating ever for one NBA Final game was 35.9 million for Game 6 between Chicago and Utah in 1998. That year also holds the highest average for the series, which is 29 million viewers. Last year, the NBA averaged 20.3 million of the NBA Finals. And so far this year, 19.2 million.

The NHL isn’t as popular as the NBA (but don’t tell Sir Charles). The NHL’s highest one-game viewership had 8.5 million sets of eyes in a Game 7 matchup between Boston and Vancouver in 2011. The highest average for an NHL series is 5.8 million. The biggest rating for one Stanley Cup Finals was 12.4 million in 1971 when Montreal and Chicago hooked up. Last year and average 4 million watched the Cup Finals, and this year it’s up 5 percent to 4.2 million.

Baseball fares better as 55 to 60 million witnessed Game 7 of the 1986 World Series between the Mets and the Red Sox. That year also holds the all-time high viewership with 36.4 million average for seven games. Last year, an average of 22.8 million watched the Cubs win their first pennant in 108 years.

So, combine all of the highest single-game ratings from the NBA, NHL and MLB (104.4 million), and it doesn’t come close to the loftiest rated Super Bowl—114.4 million for Super Bowl 49 in February 2015, according to the Nielsen Ratings.

This year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game between North Carolina and Gonzaga brought 23 million viewers, according to Nielsen. That’s slightly more than those who watched the Cubs and Indians in last year’s World Series.

College football has enjoyed a 27.1 million viewership average since implementing a championship game in 2007. The Ohio State-Oregon matchup two years ago drew 34.1 million, the highest viewership of the last 11 years of a college football championship game. College football doesn’t have a “best of” prototype.

The NBA, NHL, and MLB need to take a page from the one-and-done model, and ratings likely could match those of the National Football League.

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About the Author

Ray Dozier

Ray Dozier is the author of Legends of Oklahoma Sooners Football and two editions of The...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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