Turner Seeks NBA Package


Turner Sports hopes to score a wide range of television and digital rights as it continues to pursue the National Basketball Association's 24-hour NBA TV channel.

Turner is talking to the league about rights to the 12 million-subscriber channel, as well as rights to NBA.com and distribution rights for the league's “NBA League Pass” out-of-market package and accompanying broadband service.

“It's more than NBA TV — it's a combination of assets, including additional digital rights, NBA League Pass, many other attributes surrounding the package,” said Turner Sports president David Levy. “We're trying to find a model that works for both of us so that conversations are continuing.”

Levy said Turner has been in “constant conversations” with the NBA about the rights package since Turner and ESPN signed separate five-year deals with the league worth a combined $7.4 billion.

He would not predict or give a timetable for the deal's completion.

An NBA spokesman would only say, “We continue to have talks about our digital assets.”

The acquisition of NBA.com would fit well into Turner Sports' growing digital sports portfolio, which includes control of such properties as PGA.com and NASCAR.com.

Turner already holds some NBA digital rights, including streaming rights for TNT's upcoming Thursday night live NBA telecasts.

The network also features a video-rich site on NBA.com dubbed TNT Overtime.

TNT is also seeking distribution rights to the $179 NBA League Pass, which offers up to 40 games a week. While last year's package subscription numbers were unavailable, the package generated some 600,000 buys in 2005, according to SNL Kagan.

The talks between Turner and the NBA about NBA TV — which offers live regular season and vintage games — first came to light two months ago when the league offered buyouts to NBA TV staff in preparation for a then-unidentified media company to assume operations.

The 12 million-subscriber network is mostly distributed on sports tiers, but an affiliation with Turner Sports could provide some carriage leverage for the sports network.

At the time, ESPN was also rumored to be interested in the network, but sources close to the 24-hour national sports service said it was not pursuing any purchase of NBA TV.

ESPN executives would not comment on any potential interest in the network.