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Sacramento Kings Finish 17th In Ratings Despite Fifth-Worst Record

The Sacramento Kings finished with the fifth-worst record in the NBA, a year after finishing with the third-worst record and two years after finishing with the worst record in the league. The Kings have been really, really bad for three years. Really, really bad.

The Sacramento Kings finished No. 17 in local TV ratings this season, per John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, who covered NBA ratings. (The Kings weren't listed in the SBJ story, so I reached out directly.) Despite a third straight awful season, the Kings finish just below average in terms of local TV ratings, beating teams like the Clippers (who had maybe the single most exciting player in basketball, at least for the first half of the season, and happen to be in a market the NBA is considering allowing the Kings to move to) and Hawks.

But ratings are just one measure. When you put together ratings -- the percentage of households tuning in -- and market size -- the number of households in a market -- you end up with viewership. Per Ourand, the Kings had an average viewership of 23,000, No. 21 in the league. So despite an awful team and a smaller market, more eyeballs caught the Kings than several other teams.

How could that change in L.A.? Let's deduce.

The Lakers had a 4.79 rating and 271,000 viewers on average. That means the L.A. market has 5.6 million households. The Clippers had a rating of 0.99, and let's assume that despite Blake Griffin, the L.A. market would watch the Kings/Royals at the same rating they watch the Clippers. That'd give the Anaheim team about 55,000 viewers. So that's what the grand L.A. market is worth: doubled viewership.

The Kings earn $11 million per year in Sacramento from Comcast for local TV rights, per Sam Amick. That was negotiated at the tail end of the glory era, in 2004. Let's assume there's a bump for higher disposable income in L.A., and no demerits for the crummy team kicking off the contract or the crowded L.A. market. Let's say the increased viewer base and generally large market unicorn forces triple the Kings' contract TV contract. $33 million a year from T.V. in L.A. (Amick reports the Clippers make $22.5 million a year, by the way. We're being very giving to the Maloofs here.)

Is that big TV contract enough to make up for the $77 million loan repayment in Sacramento ... and the new $50 million in Anaheim ... and the undetermined but probably significant relocation fees assessed by the NBA ... and the myriad small but compounding relocation costs ... and the loss of some concession, gate and naming rights revenue ... and the enormous legal headache brewing ... and killing a viable NBA market with no major leauge sports competition?

Maybe for the Maloofs, who are sick of the stress of Sacramento and see great opportunity in the shining beacon of gilded optimism that is Los Angeles, it is. For David Stern and the other 28 NBA owners? I'm not convinced.


Thanks to John Ourand for passing on the numbers.


Update ...

GREAT work in the comments. SBJ reports that the Clippers' boisterous 0.99 rating this year was a 130% improvement over 2009-10, aka 1 B.B. (Before Blake). Blake is the No. 7 road draw in the league. The Kings do not have a Blake. So we can assume the Kings/Royals' initial Anaheim ratings would be closer to those of the pre-Blake Clippers than the Blakey Clippers. That puts the expected ratings in L.A. at 0.43, and the viewership at ... 24,000.

How much is Fox Sports West going to pay those extra 1,000 viewers and the potential for more down the road? That $33 million numbers looks really, really rosey.