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Stern: NBA would consider moving game start times to draw overseas audience

Oct 16, 2013, 10:48 AM EDT

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When a standard Wednesday night NBA game tips off at 7 p.m. Eastern, it is midnight in London, 4:30 a.m. Thursday in New Delhi, India, and in Beijing it is 7 a.m. Thursday morning.

For a game trying to grow globally, it’s hard to get a fan overseas to sit down and watch a game live at those times.

NBA Commissioner David Stern was in China, where the NBA sent the Lakers and Warriors for some preseason games, and where the league opened up a school with Yao Ming. At a press conference talk of bringing a regular season NBA game to China came up.

But then Stern talked start times.

“Interestingly, there’s an intermediate step that Yao raised earlier with me, and that is the question of whether the NBA would consider modifying some of the start times of its games so that they would be more accessible to international audiences at a more convenient time for them to watch. And I think that the NBA is going to have to wrestle over the next decade as more and more of our viewing audience is outside the United States, is what’s the best time for games to be played so that those fans can enjoy them live as opposed to having to get up in China and watch an NBA game at 7:00 in the morning. And I think that’s a fun problem that we’re going to be addressing because so much viewing is happening outside the United States now.”

“Fun problem?”

The problem is the domestic audience inside the United States is still the core audience. The NBA can’t start to alienate its core audience. For Europe, some of the weekend afternoon starts can work — a 1 p.m. Eastern start on Sunday is 6 p.m. in London, and you can promote that.

Asia is another matter. With basically a 12-hour time difference, there is no good answer. The Lakers and Warriors are playing at a good viewing time in China for their exhibition games, but back home America’s West Coast those games start at 4:30 a.m.

I do think you will see the NBA take a regular season game or games to China in the coming few years. It is the next step in that market.

  1. nflcrimerankingscom - Oct 16, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    Of course they can experiment with a % of regular season games, which won’t be such a big deal.

    I remember living in Sydney and going out and just deciding to stay up all night to then watch the Lakers – Kings 2002 game 6. Add general hallucinations on top of the craziness of that game and it was a bit much!

  2. johngalt1783 - Oct 16, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    Say what.

    Sure the NBA is going to go up against college football and college basketball during the day time on Saturdays. Now that really makes a lot of sense. That will do wonders for season ticket holders many of whom are college football and college basketball fans

    Right now there are a few teams in the NBA who play weekend day games. The Raptors play on Sunday afternoons and sometimes another team will play games on the weekend during the day. I believe the Knicks and Clippers have done it recently. In any case those games are rare and the players hate them.

    NBA players like all players have a routine they go through during the season. They wake at a certain time, eat at a certain time. take pre-game naps or whatever at a certain time. Their bodies like all of us become adjusted to their routine. Changing the routine will result in lowered performance and possibly lead to more injuries due to fatigue from an irregular routine.

    Does that mean it won’t happen. Of course not. If the NBA thinks they grow their worldwide brand and make more money they will do it if the players union lets them get away with it. As usual the fans will have little to no say that will affect the decision on this.

  3. kicksave1980 - Oct 16, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    Any time you alienate your core fans in order to gain new fans, it’s a bad idea. I know that there is a lot of buying power in Asia, and I can understand the league going after that market. But, I’m pretty sure they have DVR’s over there, too. The league should be more worried about making sure the start time is in line for people who have to get off of work and fight traffic for a 7-7:30pm game in each market. Maybe this is just Stern pandering to the crowd there, but I don’t think too many ticket holders are going to be happy with a noon start time in a weekday so someone 5,000 miles away can watch on tv.

  4. drewvt6 - Oct 16, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    There are already sports leagues out there dealing with a global TV market and doing just fine. Stern would do very well studying the english premier league model.

  5. makeham98 - Oct 16, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    You could start Sixers games at any time and it wouldn’t have much impact on ratings or attendance.

    Your team! Your town! Your 76ers!

  6. shivarising - Oct 16, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    Doesn’t matter what time you start the game if we can’t watch it. I live in Bangkok and there’s no way to see the games. I try to buy the season pass from NBA… “not available in my country.” I mean… ok, you don’t want my money? I can watch Manchester United. I can watch FC Barcelona. But I can’t watch my hometown Lakers. Nice one.

  7. gmsingh123 - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    This is interesting. I wonder how he’ll adjust the fix on the officiating to allow for the overseas audience.

  8. tampajoey - Oct 16, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    F’em… and tell them to buy a DVR.

  9. blazertop - Oct 16, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    Just set up side by side leagues. Let the Nba USA champ play the Asia nba champ, etc.

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