The Bulls didn’t just have their worst season in more than a decade on the court. They also saw a 24 percent drop in their local TV ratings for their worst average in 13 years, according to Sports Business Daily.
It’s a concerning trend for a team in one of the NBA’s largest markets at a time when local ratings across the league fell 4% from the previous season.
NBC Sports Chicago’s broadcasts of Bulls games averaged a 1.36 rating for the 2018-19 season, worse than local averages for the Bucks, 76ers and Timberwolves, among other teams. It was the Bulls’ worst average TV rating since 2005-06, when a group led by Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng went .500 and reached the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.
Most teams that saw significant declines in local ratings have obvious reasons for it. The Cavaliers, down 58 percent from a year ago, lost the game’s most popular player in LeBron James, leading to a mass exodus of fans after they plummeted to just 19 wins this season. The Knicks (down 38 percent) and Spurs (28 percent) didn’t lose as much viewership as the Cavaliers but still felt the impact of winning just 17 games and trading star Kawhi Leonard, respectively.
The Bulls, meanwhile, won just 22 games after winning 27 the season before, and local viewers’ patience seems to be thinning.
Not everything is bad for the Bulls, however. A young and improving roster could get a massive jolt this summer, depending on the results of the draft lottery May 14. The Bulls also finished second in the NBA in -average attendance, although their percentage of -capacity at the United Center dropped for the third consecutive year, from 103% to 99.3% to 96%. And the team took in more than $100 million in operating income last year, according to Forbes’ estimates.