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NBA teams hike ticket prices as attendance drops, data shows

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NBA owners are raking in extra cash than before the pandemic by charging higher ticket prices — despite lower TV rankings and increasingly empty seats at arenas, in keeping with internal NBA data exclusively obtained by The Post.

The common “gate” per team, or dollars from ticket sales, rose 10.2% in comparison with the last pre-pandemic season (2018-19) with fans now paying a median of $109 per ticket, in keeping with data from this past season. That’s an 18.6% increase since 2018-19 and is roughly double the speed of inflation.

Nonetheless, the variety of paid fans at arenas plummeted 7.1% to 13,603 per game, the exclusive data also shows. The Post calculated average ticket prices by dividing gate receipts by paid attendance.

The numbers are still worse for underperforming clubs, with some suffering declines of greater than 30% in paid home attendance.

The troubling trend could pose problems for the NBA because it begins negotiations for its next lucrative TV contract, with the present $2.66 billion annual cope with ABC/ESPN and Turner Sports set to run out at the tip of the 2024-25 season.

The league generates roughly 70% of its revenue through media rights and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is reportedly looking for a latest, nine-year deal that may pay $8 billion a yr. National TV rankings were barely lower this season than in 2018-19.

The chart compares the NBA franchise revenue from the last yr.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is reportedly looking for a latest, nine-year deal that may pay $8 billion a yr.Getty Images

“I’d be wondering if it is a canary in a coal mine,” a source who advises NBA teams said. “If I were Silver, I could be on the teams with the most important attendance drops telling them it was unacceptable.” 

Locally, the underachieving Knicks average ticket price rose to $185, a 14% increase since 2018-19 — despite the team failing to make the playoffs this yr. The franchise’s paid attendance fell 4%. 

Moe Dayekh, whose family has owned Knicks season tickets for six years, says he’s grudgingly coughing up for the hike. But he says other season-ticket holders are as a substitute planning to purchase tickets next season for select games on the resale market.

“I do think the costs are high, needless to say, and also you struggle to get your a reimbursement on the secondary market,” confirms Christopher Porcelli, a season ticket holder since 2014.

Insiders have floated various theories on why attendance has dropped. While lingering COVID concerns and vaccine requirements kept fans away from some arenas throughout the first half of the season, teams have meanwhile hiked prices for tickets to compensate for the cash lost. On top of the stiff increases, some insiders even have speculated that fans were turned off by the NBA’s embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban“Hopefully we may have a standard playoffs, and next yr,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told the Post “Then we may have a greater feel for demand and pricing elasticity.”NBAE via Getty Images

In an interview with The Post, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said it’s unimaginable to know which played the most important role.

“I don’t think you’ll be able to draw any conclusions in a season impacted by COVID,” Cuban told The Post. “We had customers … not come due to mandates. It was a distinct season that may’t be in comparison with anything.” 

The Mavs, who’re tied 2-2 heading into tonight’s Game 5 of their best-of-seven series against Phoenix within the Western Conference semifinals, saw their average gate climb 20%, and the variety of paid tickets sold rose 3%, in keeping with the info.

“Hopefully we may have a standard playoffs, and next yr,” Cuban said. “Then we may have a greater feel for demand and pricing elasticity.”

The NBA also blamed Covid for keeping fans away before the beginning of the playoffs.

“Overall attendance was down throughout the regular season due to Omicron spike but since April we now have had record attendance including 59 consecutive sell-outs up to now throughout the playoffs,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.  

Kyrie Irving and Kevin DurantThe Nets’ gate was driven as its average ticket prices soared to $144, a 66% increase.NBAE via Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets had the most important increase in average net gate with a 109% gain, in keeping with the info obtained by the Post. The Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers all posted increases of 40% or higher.

The Nets’ gate was driven as its average ticket prices soared to $144, a 66% increase. Longtime Nets season ticket holder Dennis Lin — who just signed up for his nineteenth season, going back to the Continental Airlines Arena days — says his seats doubled in price.

“I believe it’s a bit of bit too high. It’s not like I’m pitchfork outraged,” Lin told The Post. “That being said, there are quite a lot of season ticket holders that I do know which can be outraged. It took them an extended time to either consider renewing, or they’re definitely moving right down to half seasons or simply not renewing.”

While the Nets’ paid attendance also rose — up 26% from pre-pandemic levels — it was driven by the proven fact that the team had no superstars in 2018-19, but added Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving the subsequent June.

Accordingly, the Nets could have lost essentially the most money within the NBA – over $50 million this season – due to steep increase in payroll.

Empty seats at Toronto's ScotiaBank ArenaDespite having fan bases flush with money, 10 of the 30 teams saw paid attendance drop by 15% or more.Toronto Star via Getty Images

“I do know teams that hiked ticket prices to assist climb out of the financial hole from the last two seasons while concurrently being committed to enhancing the fan experience as events opened up,’” said Rick Allen, CEO of ViewLift, a tech platform for fan engagement and streaming for sports teams.

Still, the worth increases may be hard to keep up. Gate revenue rose partly because NBA fans had cabin fever and were anxious to get out and see games after the pandemic waned, sources said. Unspent stimulus checks also helped fans pay for the upper ticket prices.

Despite having fan bases flush with money, 10 of the 30 teams saw paid attendance drop by 15% or more. That features the Washington Wizards, Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trailblazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the San Antonio Spurs. The Recent Orleans Pelicans and Houston Rockets each were down 32% each.

None of those 10 are still alive within the second round of the playoffs, and 7 of them missed the postseason altogether. Many – just like the Rockets, Trailblazers, Kings, Magic and Pacers – didn’t put a competitive product on the ground for many of the regular season.

“You might be as strong as your weakest link,” the source near the NBA said. “You may’t have nearly half your league with fans giving a giant yawn.”

Black Lives Matter is displayed during the 2020 playoffs.Some have blamed the drop in eyeballs on the league’s embrace of the Black Live Matter movement within the wake of social unrest following the killing of George Floyd. Getty Images

Average viewership this season across ABC, ESPN and TNT fell to 1.6 million. In 2018-19, there have been 1.99 million viewers across ABC and ESPN, and 1.5 million on TNT.

Some have blamed the drop in eyeballs on the league’s embrace of the BLM movement within the wake of social unrest following the killing of George Floyd. The NBA painted “Black Lives Matter” on all of the league’s courts and allowed players to wear jerseys with names of police shooting victims.

“Half the country says this shouldn’t be us,” the source near the NBA said.

Other sports insiders imagine fans care more about their teams than politics. More socially liberal fans still watch the NFL despite the fact that the league has arguably turned a blind eye to racial discrimination, and social conservatives will still need to see gravity-defying dunks.

Steph Curry Fan darling Steph Curry’s Golden State Warriors, with an expensive latest arena, averaged a league-high $4.2 million in gate, in keeping with the inner data – a 19% increase. But Golden State’s paid attendance is off 12%, despite the brand new arena.NBAE via Getty Images

Fan darling Steph Curry’s Golden State Warriors, with an expensive latest arena, averaged a league-high $4.2 million in gate, in keeping with the inner data – a 19% increase. That put them well above even the second place Los Angeles Lakers, who generated $3.1 million. But Golden State’s paid attendance is off 12%, despite the brand new arena, the info show.

“Possibly they overcharged a bit of bit,” the source near the NBA office said, before cautioning that the info shouldn’t be a harbinger of dark days ahead for the league.

 “I wouldn’t be alarmed by these numbers,” the source said. “But I might take this seriously.”

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