New York -- USA Networks Inc. struck a broad marketing and
electronic-commerce agreement with the National Basketball Association, and USA chairman
Barry Diller said he was talking with other professional-sports leagues, too.
Under the multiyear deal announced last Friday, USA Network
and Sci Fi Channel will promote NBA merchandise available through NBA.com and the
league's NBA.com TV digital-cable channel.
USA's domestic and international Home Shopping Network
channels will carry NBA programs and specials, and USA's Ticketmaster unit -- which
handles ticket sales for 27 of 29 NBA teams -- will pitch merchandise sales to ticket
USA and the NBA will share transactional revenue generated
from sites, a source said.
The NBA deal follows USA's recent $500 million
acquisition of e-commerce technology enabler Styleclick.com Inc. and a $657.8 million deal
to acquire e-commerce customer-service company Precision Response Corp. USA will use those
companies to support the NBA partnership, Diller said.
After Diller acquired USA Network in February 1998, he said
he said preferred to invest in original programming, rather than shelling out millions of
dollars on sports rights. But after aligning his company with the NBA, he sang a different
"I would presume to hope so, but who knows?"
Diller said when asked if he would attempt to acquire the NBA's national cable
contract. Turner Network Television's $800 million deal with the league expires in
NBA.com will unveil a redesigned site this spring.
Commissioner David Stern called the current site, which is co-produced by the NBA and ESPN
Internet Ventures, "rudimentary."
"It was a simply a delivery system based on catalog
sales," Stern said of the e-commerce capability available on the site.