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NBA executives discuss shifting schedule to avoid competing with NFL in the fall

One NBA executive says the best way for his league to improve its TV ratings and attract more fans is to stop competing with America’s most popular sports league.

Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin says the NBA should shift its schedule, delaying its start by two months so that less of the NBA season overlaps with the NFL season.

“Sometimes, moving away from competition is a great way to grow ratings,” Koonin said, via ESPN. “If King Kong is at your door, you might go out the back door, rather than go out the front and engage in a hand-to-hand fight with King Kong. Many times, at the start of the NBA season, we are competing with arguably the best Thursday Night Football game with the NBA on TNT, our marquee broadcast, and we get crushed and we wonder why. It’s because at the beginning of the season, there’s very little relevance for the NBA.”

This NBA season started on October 22, and the NBA Finals will conclude in June. If the NBA season started on Christmas Day, which has traditionally been a strong day for NBA TV ratings, it would avoid competing with the bulk of the NFL regular season and would shift the NBA Finals into August, when its biggest sports competition would be regular-season baseball. Evan Wasch, the NBA’s senior vice president of strategy and analytics, said the idea could make sense, assuming the league’s TV partners are on board.

“We certainly have no issue with reconsidering the calendar,” Wasch said. “To Steve’s point, you have to think about the other stakeholders. They need to get more comfortable with the Finals in August, rather than June, where traditionally the household viewership is a lot lower. But the flip side of that argument is there hasn’t been a lot of premium content in that window, which explains why viewership is lower. We’re open to that . . . there’s no magic to [the season going from] October to June.”

Koonin noted that between the NFL, college football and even high school football, it can be hard for the NBA to get noticed in the fall.

“Let football have its time,” he said. “Let’s have our time, and let’s go after it. . . . What I’m saying is look at the spring, look at the summer, look at competing with baseball versus competing with the NFL.”

Those comments are a far cry from Mark Cuban’s 2014 prediction that the NFL was a fat hog awaiting slaughter. It seems that the NBA is starting to see that there’s no competing with the NFL.