The NBA is hoping to cut deals with the league’s 30 teams and cable operators to broadcast local games live on the Web in time for the 2008-2009 season, the Sports Business Journal reports.
It would be the first such deal for an American sports league; NBC announced earlier this summer that will stream Saturday night NFL matchups on a national basis in the fall. The NBA’s streams would be geo-targeted and available only to those living in the respective media markets. MLB offers a subscription service for out-of-market games.
No specifics on whether the video would be ad-supported or if there would be a subscription fee involved. It’s a complicated issue because digital rights are held by the teams in some markets and were sold to regional sports networks in others. Due to the complexity, the NBA is negotiating with cable operators on behalf of teams.
Some network execs appear to be buying into the idea. “We believe that new media rights can be additive and complementary to traditional broadcasts,” a spokesman for Fox Sports Networks said. Others, not so much. “It’s not going to be ready to start the season unless they present a more compelling business model for it,” one network exec warned.
NBA rights aren’t as expensive as football or baseball, but in the wake of March Madness, the US Open and (some) of the Olympics, there’s a prevailing notion that Web streaming is inevitable and preferred by young people, so it’s time to cut deals before piracy becomes a bigger issue.
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