History, NBA Hoop It Up With 'Classics'

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The History Channel will play ball with the National Basketball Association as part of a two-year programming and marketing deal.

The reported $2 million deal will yield a pair of NBA-produced documentaries and interstitial fare, as well as brand placement for the service at several of the pro hoop league's "Hardwood Classic Nights" basketball games, History channel executive vice president and general manager Dan Davids said.

On the programming side, History will air two NBA-produced, league-based documentaries — although the subject matter has not yet been determined, according to Davids.

The first will air in early April 2004, prior to the start of the NBA playoffs. The second will air sometime the following year.

The league will also develop four short vignettes to air on History, featuring current players discussing key moments in their minds about historic players and games.

While History has offered programming revolving around the various professional sports Hall of Fame venues, the deal, announced at the NBA Store here on Dec. 10, marks the first time the network has teamed up with a pro sports league to create programming and marketing opportunities.

"But this isn't an accelerant for The History Channel to get into sports in any kind of huge way," Davids said.

While specifics remained sketchy at press time, History officials said the network would have a "promotional presence" in several NBA on-air and arena events surrounding its Hardwood Classics program. In March, the network will sponsor at least 10 NBA Hardwood Classics games — in which current league teams play in vintage "throwback" uniforms, said History senior vice president of marketing Michael Mohamad.

The network is currently discussing promotional elements with several teams involved in the program, including the world champion San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers.

The network also gets to place its logo on "hangtags" accompanying about 700,000 Hardwood Classic jerseys being sold in retail stores around the country.

In addition, History will gain exposure via a "prominent presence" on NBA.com's preview of Hardwood Classic Night games, as well as inclusion within NBA.com's history section and on a new event page that highlights record-breaking performances from this season.

In addition, the network will sponsor a weekly Hardwood Classics program airing on the league's digital-cable channel, NBA TV.

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