Pay TV’s Hoop Dreams: NBA Stars Drive Viewing Interest for Youngest, Most Diverse Audience

By October 21, 2019Our Ideas

Altman Vilandrie & Company fielded an online survey in August 2019 to more than 5,000 U.S. respondents, measuring consumer interest and willingness to pay for sports and news programming, and gleaning insights about sports fandom, viewership, and betting habits.  This report focuses on the popularity of the NBA among younger viewers but the full report on all leagues, teams and players can be found here.

The NBA and its broadcast and pay TV partners are well positioned to attract elusive younger viewers and subscribers through the star power of the world’s best basketball players.  Altman Vilandrie & Company’s Sports and News Viewing Survey reveals NBA fans to be younger, more diverse, more focused on star players, and more interested in legalized sports betting than fans of the other major U.S. sports leagues.

Some specific findings of the survey include:

  • While 77% of consumers age 55 and older subscribe to a traditional pay TV service, only 65% of younger viewers (18-24 year olds) currently subscribe. However, among younger viewers who are regular (at least monthly) sports viewers, 73% subscribe to a traditional pay TV service.
  • Among younger viewers who have at least one favorite sports league, 22% cited the NBA as their top favorite, ahead of the NFL (17%) and MLB (7%); in contrast, viewer interest in the NFL and MLB skew far older.
  • Across a long list of leagues, teams, and players, younger viewers rank NBA entities as 5 of the top 7: the NBA itself, Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors, LeBron James, and LA Lakers. In contrast, among those aged 55+, the only NBA entities in the Top 25 are Steph Curry (#20) and the NBA (#22). Overall, Steph Curry was the top ranked player across all sports.

  • Compared to other sports, interest in the NBA is more player-driven, with 56% of those having the NBA as their favorite sport saying that interest was driven by their favorite player, vs. 32% for the NFL and 35% for MLB.
  • For those younger NBA fans (18-24), 61% agreed that their interest was boosted by their favorite player, suggesting the potential importance of player endorsements for pay TV subscribership.
  • Of the top three leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA), NBA fans are most likely to be pay TV subscribers with 87% subscribed (traditional or vMVPD). Of NBA fans 18-24-years-old, 90% are subscribed
  • The NBA has been the most publicly supportive of legalized sports betting, which tracks with of younger viewers: 56% of adults under the age of 24 identify themselves as frequent or occasional sports gamblers, compared to only 17% of respondents over 55.
  • For advertisers and others, the NBA’s diverse audience is also notable, with 36% of avid NBA fans categorizing themselves as White/Caucasian vs. 71% of avid NFL fans.
  • The NBA has become a year-round attraction with free agency and the draft garnering significant media coverage and fan interest. A higher percentage of NBA fans say they watch the draft than that of NFL fans.


Matt Del Percio, Principal - Altman Vilandrie & Co.For questions on the survey, please contact Matt Del Percio at or 212-220-2383.

Matt is a Principal in AV&Co.’s New York office with over 15 years of experience in the Technology, Media, and Telecom (TMT) sectors, and leads AV&Co.’s research and engagements at the intersection of sports, technology and media.