Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin has suggested a plan to increase the NBA’s ratings: start and end the season two months later.
Koonin spoke Friday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston on a panel about possible changes to the league’s schedule. NBA fans and analysts have long asserted the season doesn’t truly begin until Christmas. Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin wants the schedule to reflect that.
Under Koonin’s idea, the league would push the start of the season from mid-October to mid-December, in order to avoid much of the football season. The Finals, then, would take place sometime in August, with the NBA Draft, free agency and Summer League shifting back in the calendar as well.
“A big piece is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to enhance ratings,” Koonin said. “Sometimes, moving away from competition is a great way to grow ratings.
“Relevance equals revenue,” Koonin said. “We’ve got to create the most relevance, and the revenue will fix itself.
Evan Wasch, the NBA’s senior vice president of strategy and analytics, said the league is open to discussions regarding a new structure.
“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.”
The idea to get out of the NFL’s way in the fall isn’t exactly new. League observers have long debated the merits of adjusting—or condensing—the season. Yet, to get to a point where the league can make such moves, there would need to be buy-in by owners, players and broadcast partners.
Currently, the league’s collective bargaining agreement is set to expire after the 2023-24 season unless both sides agree to opt out after 2022-23. Any schedule adjustment would likely factor into the next round of negotiations between players and ownership.
There’s a whole lot to consider here, and the league isn’t going to be altering the schedule so extensively any time soon — something this big needs a whole lot more discussion and consideration from so many different groups.
But as Adam Silver and Co. have shown with their other recent proposals — reducing games, an in-season tournament, re-seeding in the playoffs — this current leadership group is open to bold ideas. Even if it isn’t this exact proposal, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the league move the schedule around in some way over the next decade or so.