Can Anthony Edwards Fix the NBA TV Ratings?

Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA playoffs are often the sole reason fans tune into the action, and in an era of load management and super teams, the regular season has never produced less excitement. TV Ratings dips have been on Adam Silver’s radar for a while, but the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards could be the answer to all of the NBA TV Ratings problems.

When the Minnesota Timberwolves forced the reigning NBA champs to a Game 7, there was always going to be fireworks. The Denver Nuggets have appointment viewing players in Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.

Is Anthony Edwards an NBA TV ratings elixir?

A do-or-die matchup often sells itself, and the possibility that the team from Minnesota was going to win on the road brought some intrigue. The difference maker though, is Anthony Edwards.

Sunday’s Timberwolves-Nuggets second round NBA playoff Game 7 averaged a combined 4.1 rating and 8.41 million viewers across TNT (3.7, 7.51M) and truTV (0.41, 905K), marking the largest early round NBA playoff audience ever on TNT Sports (formerly Turner Sports). The previous high was 8.38 million for Magic-Celtics Game 7 in 2009.

As goes without saying, it delivered the largest audience of the NBA season. Locally, the game averaged a 15.8 rating in Denver and a 15.0 in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Compared to the previous second round Game 7 on TNT — the Mavericks’ 2022 drubbing of the Suns — ratings increased 29% (from 3.2) and viewership 34% (from 6.29M). Going back further, Timberwolves-Nuggets ranks tenth among early round Game 7s in the past 30 years, a list topped by Pacers-Knicks in 1995 (12.89M).

Sports Media Watch

No first or second round NBA playoff game has ever brought in as many eyeballs for TNT as the Timberwolves and Nuggets’ game 7 matchup did on Sunday night. With Anthony Edwards quickly ascending the charts to “face of the league” status, his games are hard to avoid.

Despite a quick start to Game 7, the Minnesota Timberwolves found themselves down at the end of the 1st quarter. They then faced a 20-point deficit in the 3rd quarter, and managed to chip away, ultimately winning by eight, and moving on to the Western Conference Finals.

So for those that tuned in solely to see Edwards, they were rewarded with a lackluster performance offensively, but also one that highlighted his ability to impact the game as much more than a prolific scorer or offensive playmaker.

Minnesota Timberwolves are more than just their superstar, though

karl-anthony towns, anthony edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
Photo: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Karl-Anthony Towns was the linchpin to one of the greatest playoff comebacks in NBA history, and it was certainly the type of impact that Flip Saunders envisioned his former first overall pick making in these types of big moment games.

Related: Timberwolves Needed Emergency Approval to Wear Classic Jerseys in Game 7 vs Nuggets

Immediately following their victory, Anthony Edwards told Charles Barkley “bring ya ass” to Minnesota, and the internet lit it up. From a comedian buying the domain and redirecting it to Explore Minnesota, to the countless amounts of meme’s, Edwards had done it again.

Genuine in his personality, Ant is must-watch television any time he’s on the court, and equally so when a microphone is put in his face. A 22-year-old with this much confidence, swagger, and maturity is something that is not often seen in sports.

And the NBA’s TV ratings are down bad, so the league desperately needs Ant and the Timberwolves to deliver like the ratings saviors they appear to be.

This year’s Game 7 [between the Knicks and Pacers] averaged a 3.4 and 6.45 million on ABC — down 11% in ratings and 24% in viewership from Sixers-Celtics in the same window last year (3.9, 8.44M) and the least-watched second round Game 7 on broadcast television since Blazers-Nuggets in 2019 (6.35M).

Through the second round, NBA playoff games were averaging a 2.0 rating and 3.77 million viewers across ABC, ESPN, TNT/truTV and NBA TV — down 10% in ratings and 11% in viewership from the same point last year (2.3, 4.25M), but the second-most watched postseason through two rounds in the past decade. Compared to two years ago, ratings are down a tick but viewership is up 2% from 3.71 million.

Sports Media Watch

For a franchise that has been faced with years of futility, nothing could be greater than what Edwards has provided. He has the hottest sneaker on the planet, at the moment, plays a style of game that draws crowds, and leads a Timberwolves team with realistic eyes set on something seemingly unfathomable otherwise.

If Adam Silver wants to make the NBA great again, doing whatever he can to promote Anthony Edwards and get additional eyeballs on him seems like a pretty solid place to start.

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