The Atlanta Hawks are struggling on the floor this season, even if that was largely expected before the 2017-2018 campaign began. The team is in the midst of a rebuilding phase after reaching the postseason in ten consecutive years but, with the NBA’s lowest home attendance by a significant margin, there is reason to believe that local interest has waned with this particular group.
Now, John Lombardo and John Ourand of the SportsBusiness Journal are reporting that, in addition to the attendance issues, the Hawks are also badly struggling in the area of television ratings. Atlanta’s average Nielsen rating of 0.58 sits in a tie with the Los Angeles Clippers (in a larger market) for the second-worst in the NBA.
Beyond that, the Hawks suffered the largest year-by-year decline in ratings across the entire league, with Atlanta’s rating down 50 percent from the previous year. Only two teams, the Clippers and Suns, have dropped by more than 25 percent in a season in which overall NBA ratings are significantly up almost across the board.
It is important to note that three NBA teams were not involved in the SBJ study but, in the same breath, the available data is rather damning for the Hawks. As noted above, it would have been a surprise if the Hawks didn’t have a television ratings dip this season, simply because the team’s win-loss record was always unlikely to match (or even approach) that of previous squads. Still, this can’t sit well with ownership and the front office (or the good people of Fox Sports South, reportedly paying $30 million annually for broadcast rights), even while acknowledging this as a risk of a rebuilding strategy.
In some ways, the 2017-2018 Hawks are actually a more entertaining on-court product than the 2016-2017 edition, especially in the area of playing style and highlight production (hello, John Collins). This study is a reminder, though, that many fans are simply drawn to win-loss record and Atlanta will have some work to do to win back viewers and fans in the coming months.