NBA May Alter Start Times To Help Foreign Viewers See More Games

BEIJING – Commissioner David Stern raised the possibility the league will adjust the time some games start in an attempt to appease fans outside North America who now must either stay up late or wake up early to watch games on television.

It’s unclear at this point whether the adjustment will be for regular-season games, preseason games or both.

Speaking before the Warriors beat the Lakers 100-95 before 17,114 at MasterCard Center in the first of two preseason meetings between the teams in China, Stern said former Rockets star Yao Ming brought the idea up in hopes of making future games more accessible to international audiences. Stern gave no indication a decision was near, but was also clear that the league will have to consider what could be a radical suggestion, depending on the new times, at some point.

“I think that the NBA is going to have to wrestle over the next decade as more and more of our viewing audiences are outside the United States is what’s the best time for games to be played so that those fans can enjoy them live as opposed to having to get up in China to watch an NBA game at 7 o’clock in the morning,” Stern said. “I think that’s a fun problem that we’re going to be addressing because so much viewing is happening outside the United States now.”

Any dramatic move would obviously be met with resistance from fans in the United States and Canada, not to mention some of the teams themselves, if times of tipoff are moved much earlier than the current 7 or 7:30 p.m ET. One option that will undoubtedly be discussed is altering only weekend games, when schedules for spectators are more flexible and it is not unusual for early-evening or day starts.

Stern’s comments came as the NBA underlined the desire to continue to strengthen its relationship with China by announcing a partnership with Yao to develop and operate an after-school program called the NBA Yao School. The project is scheduled to launch in February in Beijing, with the hope that similar facilities will open in other parts of the country, including his native Shanghai.

The league has made increasing its presence in the world’s most-populous country a priority in recent years and returning to China for future exhibition games seems an automatic. There are, however, no plans to play regular-season contests anywhere in Asia, incoming commissioner Adam Silver said.

“As you know, we’ve played regular-season games in Asia in the past,” Silver said. “But one of the benefits of playing preseason games here in China is that there’s more time in the schedule for the players to be part of the community, to do charitable events, to conduct clinics and to get to see the country and to get to be more knowledgeable about the culture here. Our regular season is so tight in terms of the number of games, that while we could do it logistically it would mean a team coming in and playing and turning around and leaving right after the game. As Yao well knows, it’s a very tight schedule. So while it’s something we’re going to continue to look at, we think there’s much more benefit that comes from our partnership with the CBA (Chinese Basketball Assn.), with Yao Ming and with the Chinese people by playing preseason games here.”

The league has not staged a regular-season game in Asia since the Kings and SuperSonics opened 2003-04 in Saitama, Japan. Several countries in the region have hosted exhibitions and China has had games in four cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Macao and Guangzhou.

The 2013-14 edition opened with David Lee scoring 31 points in 12-of-16 shooting, Stephen Curry adding 24 points and Andrew Bogut 14 rebounds along with nine points to lead the Warriors to their second win in four preseason games. Nick Young had a game-high 18 points for the Lakers, who dropped to 2-3, while Chris Kaman contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds. Steve Nash started and played 18 minutes in his first game action since spraining his left ankle Friday against the Kings, making three of four attempts with eight points and four assists.

The teams play Friday in Shanghai — 7:30 p.m. ET local time, 4:30 a.m. in California – before returning to the United States for the final stretch of the preseason.

43 Comments

  1. Thunder up says:

    Do they have DVR’s in Asia? I bet they make them there.

  2. Stavros says:

    As the many European commentators here, I would also love to watch the games earlier, but unfortunately this isn’t for us guys. It’s for the Chinese..That’s where the money is and that’s what NBA cares for.

  3. Smoke says:

    There’s an easy solution to this….regional replys at a “better” time for that area. It is completely stupid to alter game times, unless you want to have empty arenas so foreign markets can watch games live.

  4. Pinoy KG says:

    In Manila, game starts 9am east time and it’s alright. We got used to it. Only two Live NBA games a week are aired on free tv. and they’re kind enough not to air a BobCats vs. Kings game. One or two Live Games a day on Cable TV.

  5. justsayin says:

    It’s called TIVO, look into it, world.

  6. abcdefg says:

    I live in UK, London. Making games earlier is something I wished for ever since ILP was introduced. Some of the games like Lakers, start 03:30 most of the time, and if you want to watch it all you pretty much have to stay up till 6am. For people who got work, school or other commitments this is impossible. Earliest games most often start 12am which is bearable if you still l dont have commitments. If I was American I wouldn’t be happy as well. But for us Europeans. About time you make some of the games earlier.

  7. hadoken says:

    Why all the hate ? There’s a few questions I think many of you xenophobes couldn’t even answer.

    1. Can all of you working men and women even watch some of the games ? I’ve seen games shown at 2 p.m ranging until 10p.m on the NBA schedules, do the majority of your patriotic brethren even have access to games ? Cable netflix whatever ? Can they afford to watch games starting at 10p.m, not to mention the youngsters emulating Lebron and Dwight at their high school games ?

    2. Anyone with even the most limited business knowledge knows that when sport gets as big as the nba has (ex. football in europe, africa, asia, south america) the more people you can reach, the better it is FOR YOUR SPORT. Money makes the world go round, and that cannot be highlighted enough for the “money-driven-nba” !

    3. I’ve seen many games where teams don’t get any support from audiences and have poor ticket sales with no one showing up to their games. These are teams that still need support, and this a way of ensuring higher revenues for them ! Get more people to watch their games, let them know they are supported, maybe get franchises to explore other distribution systems.

    4. This doesn’t mean that EVERY game has to be rescheduled, it just means that a FEW will be broadcasted and played earlier on in the day. A to be quite honest, think a change like this would affect a mere 2% of you whining on the threads.

    5. Maybe this may actually help the NBA GROW. A bigger league/more teams/bigger audiences only does wonders for the game of BASKETBALL, not JUST THE GAME OF NBA. Many people complain it’s a far too commercial league as it is, perhaps GLOBALIZATION will be something that drives prices down (so that some of you can actually afford to go to real life games) and the competition up (more players, bigger league, bigger pools of talent, more competition, more options).

    6. FOREIGNERS aren’t the only ones to benefit from some schedule changes – read comments section.

    7. Record games and send them to other countries to air at suitable times during the day.

    8. The idiots saying ‘stay out of our nba’ need to realize the nba players make loads of buck off international jersey sales. So, Kobe’s making his money off of you just as much as the next Chinese schmuck, and unfortunately for you, money will decide how the schedule will be, not your ignorant ranting.

  8. Pakito says:

    Yeah make then earlier!! would be AWESOME!

  9. Eli Odell J. says:

    what does the ‘national’ in national basketball league stand for?
    I would jump ship in a moment to the American league that will start up to oppose this new uppity un-American tyrant of a league it seems we got
    if you value foreign viewers over American viewers than you can have your foreign viewers and keep em, we wont be a part of it

  10. Nba fan says:

    I think its something the Nba needs to do. I work nights and have the luxury of knocking off in time for games live, but its a luxury nearly nobody has in Western Australia, including all my mates who I cant brag to for 8-12 hours when I’ve just seen my team beat there’s.

    Financially the Nba needs to do this, potentially 200 million viewers domestically compared to 6 Billion internationally. Obviously it wont be most games but if they want to financially succeed in the current US debt, they have to cater for all fans., unfortunately for them, most are over seas.

  11. Viking says:

    Please make them earlier! In Scandinavia the games begin two hours after midnight.
    I had to skip school to watch the Finals!

    Then the interest for NBA would spread to other countries as well, since it already is so big in the States.

  12. Lepara says:

    Time zones will always be a challenge. I live in South Africa and I have to be up at 1:30 and 3:00 am to watch the game depending on whether its is playing in the East or West. This season ESPN pulled out of the Africa and Europe market because the time difference made their business model unsustainable. The point is NBA will not reach an even larger international audience unless they adjust the starting times of some games. The challenge will be to create a balance that will not affect their domestic consumers but yet appear to be trying to accommodate the international market. The NBA does not only make money on game tickets, team jerseys are sold worldwide and it is a sizable market. In the end money triumphs over sensibilities.

  13. Joshua says:

    You should not change the schedule of games. It will also be hard for the players because they might not play well if the schedule is not on what they are accustomed to. Besides, the NBA’s main market are Americans and Americans should be given priority. Not other countries. If NBA wants to go global they should just travel and play some games in other countries just like what they are dong now for the pre season. Regular season games should be played in the US so that players won’t adjust to time zones.

  14. haha says:

    If in the end, all you care about is the score, then nba.com is sufficient for the foreign viewers. If not, there are streaming sites that can be easily accessed for replays and such. No need to change times. What makes it easy for foreign viewers will make it harder for people here in the states.

  15. Bigtime says:

    Lobe the idea, like sunday showcase games start earlier will be cool.

  16. Ben. says:

    DVR!

    I’ve always thought the east/west coast disparity itself was unfair, nevermind international disparities. West-coasters get to come home from work and see east coast games, then follow their teams at a normal hour. East-coasters see their teams at a normal hour, but then are suppose to stay up until 1AM just to finish out a west coast nail-biter?? Overtime should be an exciting blessing, not a begrudged, “damn, I need to stay up ANOTHER half hour??”

    Needless to say, I’m sleep deprived here in MI between November and April :)

    I wish games would just start at 5PM (8PM on the west coast) though I’m sure that would KILL the business side of ALL franchises.

  17. sakev says:

    Does the author understand that starting games even earlier is just worse for fans in Asia?? Unless he’s talking about games at 7 or 8 AM, but thats never going to happen. And noon, or 5 PM or wathever is just in the middle of the night over there, while 7 PM makes it morning over there (depending on where you live exactly), which is semi-doable (depending on when you have to go to work).

  18. BosCeltics fan from Europe says:

    No need to change game times,I live in Europe and for me it’s not a big problem to get up at 2 at night or not going to sleep + don’t need to piss off American viewers

  19. Valentin S. says:

    I have been waiting for news like this since the mid-1990s when I started following the NBA and lost many nights doing so :-) European TV stations will be more interested in paying for games that can be aired in prime time. I certainly hope some Romanian TV stations will do that. At the end of the day, this is how you back statements such as: “The NBA is going global”, and I think NBA top-management finally realized this.

  20. jugon says:

    Saturday Moring games will be nice for european fans

  21. James says:

    So now rather then support the fans you already have in America who this sport is for, the NBA is now going to forget all about us and starting worrying more about foreign viewers. Looks like the NBA has lost sight of where this sport is played and who it’s played for. This will mess with ticket sales and thus the teams will be angry about this. It’s like no one in the NBA office is thinking.

  22. illone says:

    I’m in the US, but I dont see a problem since it would likely be like 2 to 3 ‘featured’ games a week; not a whole sale change to every game played. Sorta like Thursday nights are now, only 2 (to 3) games that night, both shown on TNT featuring ‘interesting’ matchups..

    Plus, the NBA already does 1 pm EST games on Sundays; which is what, 10 am PST. And this usually the only game at that time. Fans still make it out on the weekend.

    However, If they start talking about 7 am (local) games on weekdays they risk empty/ half full stadiums. Owners aren’t going stand for that at all.

  23. Henrik Jensen says:

    chance it so that the highest users of internet and tv, can see some games (thats europe), not china, not us, Europe… give us some more action over here, we will gladly pay for it..

  24. Alex-Martin says:

    This will be wise decision. I hope it’s real.

    • whisky says:

      since NBA games watch by foreign fans or around the globe, they cant please everybody. so, leaveit as it ease. Follow the USA timings

  25. Brandon Christian says:

    This is a terrible idea!!!! This is going to piss off the AMERICAN viewers. This is a complete inconvenience to us where the game is being played in the U.S. Stern don’t do something else to dislike you even more you complete tool and idiot. You already let big markets BUY their teams and not allow small markets have a fighting chance to compete for a title. You don’t care about anything unless you are making the most amount of money possible. You and your crooked refs that decide games and give certain NAMES in the league unfair advantages. You have allowed the refs to have TOO much power. If a call is made then the players cant talk to them or other players without getting a technical foul. YOU are killing the game we love so much by allowing the refs to be Nazi dictators.

  26. Precious says:

    Not sure about this as I have to rush home on many nights when I get off work at 5pm to see a NBA game that starts at 7pm Est time which would be 5pm Mountain time (Denver). it was even worse when I lived in Hawaii. .the games came on while I was still at work and only caught full games on the weekend. weekend games would be the only time they could make a change like stated above. . . there is no way during the week. The NFL does not have to make changes to their start times and they have more viewers than the NBA. . .the NBA will keep growing but we dont need to make changes to the tstart times during the week.

  27. the bomb says:

    no need to alter time, who cares. just record the game and send the video to other countries during their time easy as that. keepp the same schedule we dont need to change for anyone

  28. T says:

    Those quotes from David Stern are interesting. I guess no one outside the North America watches games played in Toronto (regular season) and Canada (pre-season).

  29. Lakerfan says:

    I’m a big nba fan from Belgium and since all the games are played at night here in europe, I get up 2 or 3 days each week at 3 or 4 AM to watch NBA games….. It would be so great to see some changes because we have alot of fans here!!

  30. slider821 says:

    i think all games played by california teams should tip at 430am PST so the chinese can watch them. makes a lot of sense…

  31. LS says:

    I think David Stern should leave this decision for the person who’s going to be taking his place. It wouldn’t be fair to make a dramatic change to game schedules that USA fans have grown accustomed to and then leave it someone else to deal with the fallout.

    Also Stern and the NBA organization as a whole had better seriously consider WHO has made them popular, rich, and famous and their loyalty should be to those people – we all know who that is, don’t we Stern?

  32. Georgia says:

    10:30 PM is 7:30 AM here. Usually I wake up at 7 to watch Laker games, If it starts for example at 5:30 AM it gonna be hard for me and other Georgian folks to watch games. Dont mess up the League Mr.Silver, stop focusing on China those bandwagoners are not real fans.

  33. dethspike1 says:

    Love the idea. I live in UK and watching some games at 3 o’clock in the morning is a terrible experience.

    • Eli Odell J. says:

      then watch the british basketball league, and keep your nose the heck outta ours

      • Cartola says:

        Gotta say, nothin quite like going out for a night on the town in Europe and coming home at 3 AM to a Laker game starting.
        Having your cake and eating it too.

    • justsayin says:

      Spike, I apologize for my *erudite* countryman, and please don’t take away our Doctor Who.

      /many thanks, justsayin

  34. stan says:

    this is OUR game a nd now we have to bow down to them to get into their pockets. well mazybe wqe should have a league witgh ONLY foreign players

  35. justsayin says:

    Moving start times would be ridiculous, it will always be a bad time for people in some time zones no matter when you moved them to. And it would bite the hand that feeds them – the fans that watch and go to games in America, and their adoring advertisers. It’s where they get their paper now.

    Stern just wanted to sound considerate. Nothing wrong with being politely unrealistic, I suppose.

    The only real option is to offer regional replays at appropriate times, and/or to take the league global so people can have their own local divisions.

  36. wooderson says:

    NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! don’t make them earlier!!!!!!!!!! make them later so us in Australia can watch them at reasonable times in the morning. either that or don’t change it at all. the NBA shouldn’t be catering for foreign audiences anyway.