The NBA will experiment with new start times on national TV in an effort to boost ratings in the upcoming season to showcase its biggest stars, led by LeBron James, to as many people as possible.
Ratings sagged last year in part due to James’ move to the Lakers and their late national starts for East Coast viewers.
After the NBA studied the variables, the amount of 10:30 p.m. ET starts on TNT and ESPN will be cut drastically from 56 to 33 this upcoming season. The majority of them will be on TNT’s Thursday night marquee, which is sandwiched around the Charles Barkley-led “Inside the NBA.”
The Lakers had 19 games that began at 10:30 p.m. ET on national TV last year. This season, they will have 10 games that begin in that late broadcast window.
Last season, the ratings on TNT were down 15 percent, while ESPN dropped 1 percent, according to an NBA spokesperson.
While the 8 and 10:30 p.m. TNT Thursday doubleheader times will remain unchanged, earlier in the week will see a shift.
The NBA will completely eliminate the 8/10:30 ESPN split on Wednesdays, moving times to 7:30/10 and 7/9:30.
On Tuesdays on TNT, the start times will also predominantly shift to the earlier schedule. TNT has already decided to drop the “Players Only” broadcast format on Tuesdays.
ESPN will continue with mostly an 8 and 10:30 Friday format.
Stephen Curry and the Warriors will see a similar drop to the Lakers with their number of 10:30 p.m. ET games going from 18 to 11.