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YES-Comcast disputes effect on Nets' fan base

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Brooklyn Nets fans with a subscription to Comcast across the New York Metropolitan area haven't been able to watch their team on television since mid-November.  They may not be missing much, but the blackout may be having a huge impact on the fan base.

On November 18, Comcast dropped the YES Network, home of the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Yankees.  With the blackout, about 900,000 households --including this writer's-- across New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut had their YES Network suddenly taken away.  That's about 15 percent of the metropolitan area.  With no easy way to watch the games, the question remains; does this have any effect on fan interest?

To some degree it has to.  There's close to one million household that have the inability to watch the games.  Sure, not all of those households have Nets fans living in them, but many New Jersey fans have Comcast and now can't easily watch their team.  While some of the die hard fans from the Jersey days won't let this affect their love for the team, some of the more peripheral and casual fans may lose interest in the team.  If game attendance, which is at an all-time low since the move to Brooklyn, is any indicator, then the Nets may be in trouble.

There is a connection between TV viewing and game attendance. Those who watch the games on TV may be enticed to buy tickets and those who buy tickets are likely to follow the team on television.  Cutting one off and it affects the other.

Even before the Comcast decision to deny fans access, the Nets had the worst ratings of any NBA team. A little more than one-half of one percent of the New York market's TVs were  tuned to YES for Nets games last season or about 40,000 homes.

The actual audience for Nets games was considerably larger than many NBA teams, however, since even a small slice of the New York market is a lot bigger than larger slices of metropolitan areas like Memphis or Oklahoma City.  On the other hand, the Knicks ratings and audience were more than three times as big last year and that was B.P. -- Before Porzingis.

So is the low attendance a result of fans losing interest because of the blackout or because of the performance on the court?  Or both? The Nets are a bad team and with a lack of young and exciting talent, they are a relative snoozefest.  How does one determine if the blackout or the team's performance is to blame?  In all likelihood, it's a combination of both.

As Bob Raismann of the Daily News wrote last week, the big loss for the Yankees in the dispute is the casual fan. Same would hold true for the Nets it they could get of their hole.

There is a significant — very significant — segment of fans who gravitate to a winner. They don’t call in to the Valley of the Stupid. Nor are they concerned with statistical analysis. What they do is spend their money to share in the success and glory.

So when will the blackout end?  Quite frankly, it probably won't end any time soon, say Nets insiders.  The YES Network historically hasn't garnered great ratings from Nets games --the worst in the NBA in fact --and with the team off to a dismal start, Comcast has all the leverage in the negotiations.  Additionally, the Nets realize their core fan base, the households in New York City, is not affected by the stoppage.

It'll be interesting to see how subscribers react when the baseball season starts and the more populous and dedicated Yankees fans are without their Bronx Bombers.  Things may get ugly and an agreement could be reached but until then, Nets fans with Comcast will have to wait until next season.