Wanting to control more of its pay-per-view operations, the
Houston Rockets National Basketball Association team will take over the marketing and
promotion of its upcoming playoff games on PPV.
For years, Fox Sports Southwest has been handling
operations for the modestly successful Rockets PPV games, including distribution,
affiliate relations, marketing and promotion. This year, however, the team wanted to get
more involved with the distribution aspects of the games, which begin this week with the
Rockets' first home playoff game against the Utah Jazz, said Joel Blank, director of
broadcasting for the Rockets. The series started last week in Utah.
Beginning this week, the Rockets will heavily market the
PPV games to its 225,000-addressable-subscriber base through a combination of media
including local print, television and radio, Blank said.
Jon Heidtke, general manager for Fox Sports Southwest, said
he has no problem with the team's efforts. In fact, he believes that the team has a
greater knowledge of its own fan base, and that it can help to get the PPV message out.
"It'll help us to get to many more Rockets fans
and to get the message out at a more accelerated rate," he said.
Houston operators have enjoyed significant revenue
throughout the 1990s from Rockets PPV telecasts -- particularly during the team's
championship years in the mid-1990s, when games were generating double-digit buy-rates.
This year, however, the team will be lucky to get out of
the first round. Seeded eighth in the Western Conference, the Rockets will have to beat
the defending conference champion Jazz in the five-game series to set up more than two PPV
Nevertheless, Blank said, he expects the PPV games to do
"With all of the home playoff games being sold out, we
should have some positive response to the games," Blank said.
The Rockets will price the telecasts at $19.95 for
first-round games, $24.95 for second-round games and $29.95 for third-round games. If the
Rockets make it to the finals, the games will be televised by NBC, Blank said.
In fact, the Rockets will not distribute via PPV any
playoff games that NBC televises in any round, Blank said.
The Rockets' decision comes six months after an
11th-hour distribution agreement with Fox Sports Southwest. The team had fielded offers
from Fox rival ESPN and from a local broadcast station before settling into a multiyear
agreement with the regional-sports network.