As an added enhancement to its out-of-market pay-per-view
package, the National Basketball Association will launch a 24-hour channel that will be
included with "NBA League Pass."
The new service, NBA.com TV, will combine real-time
statistics, scores and news from the league's NBA.com Internet site with live studio
programming, live coverage of games featured on NBA League Pass, vintage games and
basketball-themed movies, league executives said.
"NBA.com TV represents the convergence of the
Internet, television and basketball," NBA commissioner David Stern said in a prepared
statement. "By combining the immediacy and depth of information from NBA.com with
current and historical television programming from the NBA, NBA.com TV will offer our fans
complete, around-the-clock coverage of the league."
NBA president of television and new media ventures Ed
Desser said the channel was developed to provide more information and coverage of the
league to NBA League Passsubscribers.
"The idea is to create a destination where viewers can
get updated information about the games," he said. "It's a more efficient
way to bring people up to speed with what's happening in the league."
The service will air on Viewer's Choice-affiliated
digital systems offering NBA League Pass, as well as on DirecTV Inc., the league said. The
service will be provided at no additional charge to Viewer's Choice customers and to
DirecTV "Total Choice," "Platinum" or "Total Choice Gold"
Viewer's Choice senior vice president of distribution
and product development Rob Jacobson said the service would further increase the value of
the NBA League Pass package. Viewer's Choice last month obtained the package for
cable for the first time, and it will distribute the games via its 33-channel digital-PPV
Systems will have to clear as many as 12 channels for the
package, which begins in November and runs through April 2000.
"For the hard-core basketball fan, this will be a nice
complement to the package," Jacobson said. "The league has the opportunity to do
something real special to promote its product."
He also suggested that digital systems could offer the
service as a promotional tool to attract package buys. "Hopefully, operators will be
able to make [NBA.com TV] available to their digital subscribers who haven't yet
ordered the package," he added.
The service marks the first time a professional-sports
league has developed a full-time television network.
In order to program the new service, the NBA will take its
vintage NBA games off ESPN Classic during the basketball season, a league official said.
The basic network, however, will be able to resume distribution of the games once the
season is over.
Representatives from ESPN could not be reached for comment
at press time.