News

NBA's Digital Drive

1/18/2008 7:00 PM Eastern

The National Basketball Association is passing its NBA TV and other digital operations to Turner Broadcasting System in the hope of scoring more business for the properties.

The league last week completed a much anticipated operational transfer of its Secaucus, N.J.-based 24-hour sports network, its NBA.com Web site, its NBA League Pass out-of-market live game package and its broadband and wireless businesses to Turner, who will move those operations to its Atlanta production facility.

Secaucus, N.J.-based NBA Entertainment will continue to provide content for all of the NBA's digital businesses as well as the network's international operations.

Turner will now handle the programming, marketing and technical operations for the 15 million subscriber NBA TV digital-television network, whose current affiliate deals with operators are up this year. As part of the arrangement, Turner and the NBA will jointly sell advertising for all of the digital assets including NBA.com, but the NBA will handle affiliate sales duties for the NBA TV digital network.

Stern believes that Turner's influence on the programming end — for example, popular Turner on-air talent for its NBA telecasts, such as Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, will now appear on NBA TV — will help build value for the network and help expand the network's reach beyond cable-system sports tiers. Stern added the network, which offers nearly 100 live NBA games a season, will reduce its 30-cent licensing fee to further entice operators.

“The addition of the Turner assets together with the studio, together with high definition … is a terrific proposition,” he said. “We'll be making the point that compared to others we have an extraordinary amount of programming.”

The league and Turner will also look to boost the value of its $159 “NBA League Pass” out-of-market pay-per-view package, which will generate between 300,000 and 500,000 subscribers this season according to Stern. The league will look to offer smaller, less expensive packages and price points to help operators sell the service.

On the broadband front, NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Adam Silver said the league will explore the possibility of offering regional sports networks rights to air local live-game NBA telecasts on their respective broadband channels. Currently, TNT and ESPN have the right to stream live games from their air and migrate other NBA-oriented content to an array of platforms.

“It is our belief that … in order to attract increasing viewer interest and advertiser interest [regional sports networks] need to have both digital rights and game rights,” Silver said.

Turner adds the operations of NBA.com to its portfolio of pro sports Web sites including NASCAR.com, PGATour.com and PGA.com that it manages. Turner Sports and Turner Broadcasting Sales, Inc president David Levy says the deal will allow Turner to provide a more robust, multiplatform experience to NBA aficionados.

“Together, we're providing a full integrated experience that will all come together to give fans and viewers a deeper interaction with the NBA,” he said.

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