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As the Indiana Pacers emerge from the NBA All-Star break, they have a lot of ground to make up. And not just on the court.
The Pacers have seen ratings for their games on Fox Sports Indiana drop 35 percent compared to last year at this time, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research.
That’s the third biggest TV ratings decline among the 30 NBA teams. The Minnesota Timberwolves have seen a 54 percent decline in its local TV ratings and the Denver Nuggets are down 53 percent, according to Nielsen.
There are some mitigating circumstances.
First, the Pacers doubled their TV ratings last year over the previous season as they chased the overall No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers last season had their best TV ratings since the 2004-2005 season.
Also, the Pacers this year have been decimated by injuries and got off to a slow start on the court.
But things are looking up. The team is getting healthy, new stars are emerging and there’s even a chance all-star forward Paul George could make it back on the court before year’s end.
All in all, Fox Sports Indiana officials said there’s reason for optimism. Despite the dip from last year, the Pacers still have the eighth highest local TV rating of all NBA teams. That doesn’t mean they have the eighth biggest audience, but the eighth highest percentage of households in their home area that are tuning in.
The Blue and Gold have won six of eight this month, and their games’ TV ratings are ticking up. The ratings are 2.9 through the first 56 games this season, but the eight games televised on Fox Sports Indiana this month are averaging a 3.5 rating, according to Nielsen.
“The TV ratings reflect what we’ve seen in Bankers Life Fieldhouse: sustained support and interest in our team even with the loss of Paul George and the other injuries we’ve had,” said Bill Benner, Pacers senior vice president of corporate, community and public relations. “The toughness and resilience the Pacers have shown resonates in the community and in the TV audience.”
Fox Sports Indiana officials are confident that surge will continue as the Pacers push for a playoff spot. The Pacers are currently 23-34 and in a tie for 10th place in the Eastern Conference. The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs.
Each rating point is worth 10,720 central Indiana households, so an average of 37,520 area households are tuning in each game this month and an average of 31,088 households for the season.
At this stage last season, the Pacers were averaging a 4.4 rating (47,168 households) and they ended the season with a 4.2 rating (45,024 households), according to Nielsen.
Despite the ratings decline, the Pacers are still on target to have their second highest TV ratings in the last nine years, according to Nielsen.
“Fans have stuck with this team through the injuries,” said Fox Sports Indiana General Manager Jack Donovan. “That’s a credit to the fans here, who recognize and appreciate hard-nosed basketball, and to the team for growing its fan base the last several seasons with its marketing and community efforts.”