Silver open to idea of playing morning games to increase foreign TV audiences


One interesting detail to come out of commissioner Adam Silver's London news conference last week was potentially experimenting with the idea of playing some regular-season NBA games on weekday mornings in order to get onto higher-viewership television in foreign countries.

Silver was speaking at media availability ahead of Thursday's Toronto Raptors-Orlando Magic game in the British capital.

If there is one consistent drawback to the decades-old discussion of North American professional sports expanding overseas, it has been the time zone issue. The majority of most leagues' revenue is driven by television dollars, and advertising rates are at their premium in primetime (considered 8 to 11 p.m.). Unfortunately, primetime on the east coast of North America is past midnight in central Europe, and early in the morning in most of Asia.

The NFL has succeeded in their London venture by playing games at 6 p.m. local time, which lines up with their standard Sunday afternoon timeslot back home. Yet if London were to land a team, what would happen if they were to be scheduled on a Sunday night game, a road playoff contest, or for that matter, the Super Bowl?

If Silver and the NBA were serious about testing the morning game theory, it would at least sort of line up the broadcasts in the wheelhouse of other countries' prime viewing periods, although far from perfectly. Consider the time zone differential:

ET (New York) GMT (London) HKT (Hong Kong)
10 a.m. 3 p.m. 11 p.m.

If appeasing European viewers was the sole objective, then some games could be slid back to early afternoon in the States, which line up with primetime television, in say, France. However, the explosion of the game in China over the past decade - not to mention a growing fan base in Africa and India - mean they probably have to be considered, as well.

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There's also the other issues - convincing NBA players and their union to suit up for a real competitive game in the middle of the morning, and getting fans (many of whom are corporate seat holders usually working at 10:30 a.m.) to fill an arena.

For a multi-billion dollar sporting empire, the NBA is nothing if not innovative and forward-thinking, however. Looking into the idea demonstrates a progressive approach to further growing its product internationally.