The two-month NBA playoffs juggernaut is set to tip off Saturday afternoon, and ad inventory is selling like Slurpees in Hell, as the league's broadcast partners estimate that some 90 percent of the available commercial time already has been snapped up by marketers shilling everything from fast food to summer popcorn movies.
And while the NBA postseason is always a must-buy for a number of youth-skewing categories, interest in this year's 16-team tournament is particularly elevated, given how the league has managed to defy the gravitational forces that have dragged down the ratings for pretty much everything else on TV. According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the NBA during the 2017-18 season enjoyed its highest audience deliveries in four years, with the combined viewership across ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBA TV up 8 percent year-over-year to 1.28 million viewers.
Basketball fans who tune in for this weekend's slate of games will notice that TNT and ESPN/ABC for the first time have lined up presenting sponsorships for their respective live playoff packages. TNT has inked a comprehensive deal securing Hulu as the presenting sponsor of its full slate of postseason coverage, ranging from the first round all the way to the Western Conference Finals in mid-May. Meanwhile, ESPN and its broadcast sibling ABC have locked in PepsiCo's breakfast drink Mountain Dew Kickstart as the marquee backer of their first-round playoff action.