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It’s early, but TV ratings show Nets catching up with Knicks ... in New York

Philadelphia 76ers V Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

As Ryan Ruocco said recently on the YES Network’s Brooklyn Nets Magazine, “when there’s greatness in this city, it takes over the pulse of this town.” And Ryan Ruocco (and Sarah Kustok) know what that looks like. They were the hosts for the highest rated Nets game in New York in six years Sunday. As the YES Network tweeted out...

And for comparison’s sake...

It’s early but not a surprise. More people are going to be interested in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s heroics than the progress of R.J. Barrett and Mitch Robinson. (Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley, the Nets rookies, are out for a while.)

Nationally, the Nets are also getting noticed. In their first two games, both nationally televised, Brooklyn delivered about five million viewers to TNT vs. the Warriors on Opening Night and to ABC vs. the Celtics on Christmas Day. The Knicks won’t be on TNT, ABC or ESPN until January 13 ... when they play the Nets at the Garden.

And it’s a trend as we noted back in our Off-Season Report back in October.

In 2015-16, Sports Business Journal reported Nets games on YES Network were the league’s lowest-rated games for the second straight season and seventh time in nine seasons.

Specifically, Brooklyn had a 0.46 rating in New York that season, about 34,000 households. The Knicks, despite not making the playoffs, had a 1.98 percent rating, more than four times the Nets and up 58 percent over 2014-15. Since then, things have changed.

Last season, the Nets had a two percent drop over 2018-19 while the Knicks dropped by 19 percent. This comes after the Knicks dropped 38 percent the season before and the Nets jumped by 22 percent. The gap between the two teams’ viewership had been cut in half, with the Knicks now at 0.85 to the Nets 0.45.

In fact, since 2015-16, the Knicks have lost 57 percent of their audience on MSG, dropping from 1.98 to 0.85. After some up’s and down’s during the Nets rebuild (and a season and a half worth’s of blackout on Comcast), the YES telecasts held steady. Holding steady with such great production is not great, but it’s better than losing more than half your audience in five years.

MSG, of course, is part of James Dolan’s sports empire. YES, on the other hand, is owned by the Yankees, Amazon and Sinclair Broadcasting.

The Nets success in TV ratings is almost certainly going to be the most reliable metric of the rivalry this season with fans unlikely to be permitted inside Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden until the playoffs or close to them. There are other metrics of course like merchandise sales (where the Nets are also moving ahead of the Knicks) but eyeballs on screen rather than fannies in the seats is it for now.

Things can change, of course, and the Nets lost in Charlotte while the Knicks beat the Bucks at the Garden, but a trend is a trend.