The NBA is on a roll. At a time when many sports are struggling to fill seats, the NBA announced today for the fourth consecutive season the league has broken their attendance record.
More than 22 million fans attended an NBA game this season, establishing a new record for total attendance. The average attendance per game of 17,987, was also the highest NBA regular season average of all-time.
Games were harder to get tickets to this year as well. 741 games were sold out, exceeding the previous high of 723 from the 2015-16 and 2016-2017 seasons.
"The NBA is hot," said Irwin Raij, Co-Chair Sports Industry Group at O'Melveny & Myers. "You are seeing this real rise in value…people believe in this asset."
It's not just attendance seeing gains. TV ratings are surging as well. TNT's live NBA game telecasts averaged 1.7 million viewers this year, making it the most-watched regular season since 2013-2014. More importantly to advertisers, the coveted 18-34 and 18-49 demographic saw a 14 percent and 15 percent increase.
The NBA on ABC was up 17 percent, also experiencing double digit increases in several key demos.
This comes after the NFL and NHL both saw declines in TV ratings this season.
"The fact that the NBA's numbers are up in key areas in a time of unprecedented downward pressure on all forms of sports and entertainment is significant," said George Pyne, Founder of Bruin Sports Capital. "The NBA's numbers speak to the health of the sport and strong demand for the product," he added.
More fans are using computers and phones to tune into their favorite teams. The NBA's League Pass saw a 63 percent increase in their digital subscriptions this year after the NBA expanded their offerings including new features and Spanish language video for some games.
On the merchandise front, the NBAstore.com saw a 25 percent sales increase this season across all teams. The Philadelphia 76'ers are seeing a 100 percent uptick in merchandise sales this season according to Fanatics. This comes after their first playoff run since 2012 and five consecutive losing seasons. Rookie of the year contender Ben Simmons and superstar Joel Embid have some of the best-selling jerseys in the league.
People are also liking, tweeting and instagraming the NBA more today than ever. The league says social media video views are up 43% or by 11 billion views this season. Overall, the NBA has more than 1.5 billion likes and followers combined. Helping to drive that growth is Lebron James.
The 3x NBA Champion is the most-followed American athlete on social media. The King has 100M followers across Facebook (23 million), Twitter (41 million) and Instagram (36 million).
How does all this positive momentum for the league translate financially?
"It speaks well to the league and will reflect an increase in valuations," says Raij.
NBA valuations are already at an all-time high. According to Forbes, the average team is worth $1.65 billion or 22 percent more than last year.
Just this week, it was reported that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov sold a 49 percent stake of the Brooklyn Nets to Alibaba's Joe Tsai. That deal values the Nets at $2.3 billion.
Raij says the latest data can only help for a league that is "tremendously managed," by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
While the NBA's media rights deal isn't up until the 2024-2025 season, Raij says a boost could come in the form of national sponsorship deals and national revenues as more brands will want to be associated with the NBA.
The local impact is harder to measure. "For each local team it's going to be case specific," he said.
All this, and the playoffs haven't even begun.