Basketball is considered one of the most progressive and innovative sports in the world. As such, the NCAA, NBA, and G League are constantly searching for ways to increase their global reach and increase their viewership. With the telecommunications industry seeing a decrease in overall customers who pay for monthly or yearly cable services, the sports industry is feeling pressure to keep viewers in a culture where “cutting the chord” is becoming a trend. However, the sports industry is one field that continues to drive viewership through their live cable broadcasts each year. All three leagues, which represent the college level, the minor league level, and the professional level, look to differentiate their broadcasts in the marketplace and experiment with different elements to attract new viewers and engage existing viewers. In the past, leagues and networks have experimented with streaming services, camera angles, mic’d up players and coaches, and augmented reality to demonstrate offensive and defensive sets. While both the college level and professional level have had limited issues in developing a loyal broadcast audience and attracting new viewers, the minor league (commonly known as the G League) has faced more challenges to grow. The problems the G League face with building their digital audience include competing seasons with both College Basketball and the NBA, disparaging perceptions that the games and players are not as interesting to watch, limited and expensive cable broadcast availability, and lack of fan affinity. Although these are challenges that the G League faces, the upcoming league has experienced success with year-over-year growth since its birth in 2001. Each year, the G League has increased the number of games broadcasted on traditional cable networks, and as a result, increased viewership. The blossoming league has a lot of potential, especially now that players can enter the G League directly out of high school, so capitalizing on opportunities to not only differentiate itself amongst other minor leagues, but also amongst other basketball leagues will be imperative to increase its fan base.
The purpose of this research is three-fold: to understand how people consume sports broadcasts, what levels of basketball they watch most frequently, and what elements of a sports broadcast they prefer or wish to implement. Aside from understanding consumption behaviors, this research further explores specifically how the G League can increase viewership, whether it’s experimenting with rule changes, implementing new broadcast elements, or creating off-court content that develops interest and affinity for players in the league. What the data and statistical tests concluded was that people who were classified as ‘G League Fans’ are generally fans of all levels of basketball, but that people who were classified as ‘College Basketball Fans’ or ‘NBA Fans’ were not necessarily fans of the G League. Based on this finding, the thesis provides recommendations for how the G League can increase viewership amongst basketball fans, as this will be its most receptive and impressionable group. For those unfamiliar with what the G League is, the thesis also provides a brief history and who the players are that make up the league.