Attendance for Indiana Pacers games may be down a bit so far this year, but viewership of the team’s games on television and online is up significantly.
Through the team's marquee matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, ratings for Pacers games this season are up 20 percent over the same period (28 games) a year ago, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research.
Pacers telecasts on Fox Sports Indiana are averaging a 3.4 household rating, meaning about 35,000 central Indiana households on average are tuning in.
The Pacers have the sixth-highest TV ratings of the 30 NBA teams' regional broadcasts.
The Dec. 8 home game against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers was the highest-rated regular season game on Fox Sports Indiana since Dec. 30, 2015, according to Nielsen. In that game, Pacers guard Victor Oladipo scored 33 points, and the Pacers snapped Cleveland’s 13-game winning streak.
The Cleveland game scored a 5.6 household rating, which means nearly 60,000 central Indiana households tuned in.
In addition to the TV ratings increase, the number of people streaming the game through the Fox Sports Go app is up 107 percent compared to the same period a year ago, according to Fox Sports officials. They declined to say how many unique viewers are streaming Pacers games.
The team’s unexpected early success (16-12, as of Wednesday) and the emergence of Oladipo as a legitimate all-star candidate have almost certainly helped boost viewership.
This has been a breakout year for Oladipo, an Indiana University graduate who came to the Pacers in the off-season in a trade that sent Paul George to Oklahoma City. With Oladipo leading the way with 24.3 points per game, the Pacers are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and in position to make the playoffs. Coming into the season, the team was expected to be among the worst in the conference.
Pacers sales boss Todd Taylor, a veteran marketer who also has worked in Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, said there’s more to the team’s rising popularity than its success on the court.
“This is one of the most likeable teams I’ve been around,” Taylor said. “You can tell they like playing together, and they have chemistry. That resonates really, really well in this market. Fans in this market have always liked a team game, and that’s what this team is giving them.”
To illustrate Oladipo’s connection with Pacers fans, Taylor points to a post-game autograph session featuring the 25-year-old following a home game two weeks ago. The Pacers usually allow 300 ticket holders to attend the post-game player autograph session. Fans must RSVP, and Taylor said the attendance rate is usually 80 percent or so.
“For Victor’s autograph session—despite having to wait 30 to 60 minutes after the game—attendance was 100 percent,” Taylor said. “Everybody hung around. It was amazing.”