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Published on February 20, 2024
Portland Trail Blazers Suffer 49% Drop in Local TV Viewership Amid Disappointing SeasonSource: Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In what can only be described as a hard blow to the Portland Trail Blazers' broadcast reach, new figures from Sports Business Journal indicate local TV viewership for the team's games on Root Sports Northwest has plummeted by an NBA-worst 49%. The steep decline poses serious questions about the team's drawing power without its former superstar Damian Lillard, who took a trip to Milwaukee Bucks territory before the season began.

As for the factors behind this drop, they aren't explicitly stated, but you don't need to be a detective to figure it out: Lillard's exit, the Blazers' abysmal performance this season — a discouraging 15-39 record that lands them in the bottom rungs of the NBA — and a less-than-genius move by Root Sports, which before the season start was demoted from Xfinity's standard package to its costlier upper echelon of channels. Making fans shell out more to catch a game isn't exactly a winning strategy.

It's not as if the NBA is suffering across the board, either. The league has seen a swell in eyeballs in other local markets. According to a KOIN report, while the Blazers' numbers wither, franchises like the Denver Nuggets and the Minnesota Timberwolves are boasting impressive viewership gains of 139% and 107%, respectively.

Meanwhile, NBA Twitter, which has taken to 'X' in the wake of the platform's rebranding, has cast a mocking spotlight on Portland's woes with what's being dubbed "The Dame Effect." The term refers, of course, to Lillard's departure and posits a not-so-rosy picture for the Blazer's new era under Deandre Ayton. As one fan sarcastically put it on social media, evident in a Sportskeeda piece, the drop in viewership aligns almost perfectly with the Blazers' tumble down the league standings.

The Blazers' hardships serve as a stark reminder that star power and win columns are more than just vanity metrics in pro sports; they are the lifeblood of a team's ability to connect with a city, compel fans, and keep those TV numbers from sinking like a late-game free-throw under pressure.