Streaming in the Mix for New Mega Billion Dollar NBA TV Rights Deals

NBCUniversal is reportedly looking to pay $2.5 billion a year for a share of the National Basketball Association’s new television rights deal beginning for the 2025-26 season. The offer, which is more than twice what Warner Bros. Discovery currently pays the NBA annually broadcasting games on TNT (and the Max platform), would include streaming games on the Peacock platform. NBC last broadcast NBA games in 2002.

For the NBA, which is looking to expand its digital footprint nationwide and internationally across a variety of media distribution partners, streaming video is a key component in the negotiations that will split rights among three or more license packages.

Disney’s ESPN/ABC brands are expected to pay about $2.6 billion a year for its NBA rights, which would include the ESPN+ streaming platform, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited sources familiar with the aforementioned rights talks. ESPN currently pays the NBA about $1.5 billion annually.

Perhaps trumping all of those deals is a pending agreement between the NBA and Amazon, which reportedly would see games exclusively streamed on Prime Video globally over the next decade similar to the streamer’s NFL pact for “Thursday Night Football.” If the deal comes to fruition, it would mark the first time NBA games are exclusively distributed on a streaming service.

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“The NBA has made it clear that it wanted to define itself for the next frontier of viewing with streaming at the forefront,” wrote The Atlantic.

Roku, NBA Team Up for Branded FAST Channel, Including Live-Stream G League Games

Roku April 3 announced a partnership with the National Basketball Association to officially launch the first-ever NBA FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) channel and the NBA Zone — showcasing games, highlights, documentaries, and original series.

The Roku Channel is the inaugural partner of the first-ever NBA FAST channel, which is available exclusively on the platform for a limited time.

“This partnership brings us a giant step further in our mission to make sports programming both easy to find and engaging to watch,” Joe Franzetta, head of sports at Roku, said in a statement.

The NBA FAST channel will feature classic games, highlights, recaps, documentaries, original series, studio shows, and interviews, among other additional content. Viewers can access the channel on The Roku Channel, within related zones (Live TV Zone, Sports Zone, NBA Zone), through the Live TV Channel Guide or via The Roku Channel App. Roku will also be exclusively distributing more than 40 live NBA G League games on a national basis during the 2024-2025 NBA G League season.

As part of this launch, the NBA App will be integrated within the NBA Zone, offering users access to the latest league news, behind-the-scenes stories, and game clips. NBA League Pass, the league’s live out-of-market game subscription service, will also be available to purchase within the offering.

“This partnership supports our goal of reaching NBA fans with our content in innovative ways,” said Greg Beaton, SVP of content partnerships.

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NBA’s L.A. Clippers Launch ‘ClipperVision’ Offering 70 Live Stream In-Market Games Direct-to-Consumer

In a first for the National Basketball Association and professional sports, the Los Angeles Clippers will launch a direct-to-consumer streaming platform, ClipperVision, that will stream more than 70 games live in-market games in its first season.

Priced at $199.99 for the season, the platform aims to enhance the live game-watching experience through augmented reality and alternate-language commentary options. It will launch with six different stream options, and additional features are in the plans.

The platform expands from the Clippers CourtVision Beta, which was introduced in 2018 as the very first live, augmented sports broadcast available and won numerous awards for its innovation.

Subscribers for the 2022-23 season will receive a limited-edition L.A. Clippers-branded jacket and regular season access to Bally Sports+.

“I have wanted to create a product like ClipperVision since the day I came to the Clippers,” Clippers chairman and owner Steve Balmer said in a statement. The former Microsoft CEO said the streaming platform would transform the experience Clippers fans have watching games and provide them with more platforms to watch the team.

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Live streaming isn’t new to the NBA, which markets its $99 seasonal “League Pass” featuring out-of-market games with commercials, and “League Pass Premium” ($129.99), offering games commercial free.

ClipperVision subscribers can stream live games in-market and access a video-on-demand library directly at home, online, on their phone, or on the go from their computer, phone, and other connected devices without a cable subscription. ClipperVision is powered by the NBA’s new integrated digital platform, which also runs the new NBA app.

“The TV landscape is getting increasingly more competitive, oftentimes at the cost of the fan,” said Gillian Zucker, president of business operations at the Clippers. “Making ClipperVision available directly to consumers, combined with games on Bally Sports SoCal and free-to-air-TV on KTLA, means that we can put Clippers games back in the hands of our local fans.”

ClipperVision’s six streams will include:

  • BallerVision — featuring live commentary from some of Clipper Nation’s biggest and most well-known personalities — Baron Davis, Paul Pierce, Quentin Richardson and Matt Barnes — along with guest appearances from Ballmer and celebrity Clippers fans.
  • The app will provide access to live game streams from Bally Sports SoCal and KTLA featuring traditional on-air talent and graphics.
  • CourtVision powered by AWS is similar to ShotIQ Mode in the Clippers CourtVision Beta, and will carry over augmented graphics for real-time shot probability and statistics, among other features.
  • CourtVision Mascot Mode powered by AWS will feature new and enhanced animations, graphics, and special effects added in real-time with machine learning, an expansion of the similar mode from Clippers CourtVision.
  • ClipperVision in Korean will be the first Korean-language commentary available OTT in the L.A. market, and it will be called live from Korea by commentator Yong-Gum Jeong, former basketball player and Korean Basketball League champion Tae-Sool Kim, and basketball reporters Hyun-Il Cho and Dae-Bum Son.
  • ClipperVision en Español will be hosted by veteran broadcaster Francisco X. Rivera. Experienced analyst Roger Valdivieso will take the commentator chair along with an extensive list of invited guests. ClipperVision en Español is the first team direct-to-consumer platform produced specifically for a Spanish-speaking audience.

NBA to Stream Select 2022 Drew League Games Globally Beginning July 23

The National Basketball Association will begin streaming select 2022 Drew League games, beginning July 23, and streamed globally on the NBA App and NBA.com. This marks the first time the NBA digital platforms will feature a pro-am league, building upon the NBA’s goal to engage with fans throughout the offseason and widen its scope of basketball content.

Based in Los Angeles, the Drew League made its debut on NBA digital platforms on July 16 with a matchup featuring LeBron James and DeMar DeRozan. The championship game will stream on Aug. 21, with the priority for games featuring NBA players and top competition.

The NBA will produce all games on-site in Los Angeles and distribute content including NBA players, celebrity appearances and big performances across NBA digital platforms. Details regarding the full game schedule and coverage will be available soon on NBA.com and NBA social.

“This is an extremely exciting year for the Drew League, and we are thrilled to collaborate with the NBA to bring the league to more fans across the globe,” Chaniel Smiley, Drew League Commissioner, said in a statement. “I’m very proud of the work we have done this year for The Drew and look forward to all the new fans experiencing first-hand the talent of the players in the Drew League as well as its cultural impact.”

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Through the years, dozens of NBA players have participated in the Drew League, including the late Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, James Harden, Baron Davis, Kevin Durant and Paul Pierce, among others. The NBA worked in collaboration with the Drew League and its marketing and brand agency CrossOVR Collective to bring this programming to NBA platforms.

The NBA also currently stages the 2K23 Summer League tournament in Las Vegas, in addition to the G-League during the normal basketball season.

Samba TV: ‘The Matrix Resurrections’ Streamed by 2.8 Million HBO Max Households

Following an 18-year break from 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions, the fourth film in the sci-fi franchise, The Matrix Resurrections, was simultaneously made available to stream on HBO Max.

About 2.8 million Max households in the United States did just that, according to new data from Samba TV, which tracks more than 46 million opted-in televisions globally, including 28 million in the United States.

That explains why the Warner Bros. Pictures release had such a quiet box office debut ($22 million in North American ticket sales) through the Christmas weekend.

The tally was less than Netflix’s disaster movie spoof Don’t Look Up (3.1 million homes), but ahead of Disney’s animated family musical Encanto (2 million) on Disney+.

Then again, the Christmas weekend offers a buffet of live sports. And the numbers don’t lie. Holiday family get-togethers often survive with an assist from of any game on the television.

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A whopping 13.8 million households watched the Green Bay Packers vs. Cleveland Browns (Fox/NFL Network), which was up 31% from the previous year period. Another 6.1 million homes watched the Arizona Cardinals vs. Indianapolis Colts (NFL Network).

More than 2.6 million basketball households watched the New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks (ESPN), which was down 3% year-over-year. Another 3.3 million watched Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics (ABC), down 5%. About 3.5 million watched the Phoenix Suns vs. Golden State Warriors (ABC), up 11%; 3.9 million watched the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Brooklyn Nets (ESPN/ABC), down 15%; and 1.3 million watched the Utah Jazz vs. Dallas Mavericks (ESPN), down 22% YoY.

FuboTV Expands Sports Gambling Footprint With Cleveland Cavaliers

The line between live sports and gambling is evaporating. What was once illegal is now an incremental revenue opportunity.

The National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Fubo Gaming, a subsidiary of streaming platform FuboTV, Oct. 6 announced a new long-term partnership. The agreement marks Fubo’s first sponsorship with an NBA franchise. It recently inked a similar agreement with the NFL’s New York Jets.

Beginning with the upcoming 2021-22 season, the partnership will promote the Fubo gaming brand through an integrated marketing campaign highlighted by broadcast-visible signage, a presence on team television and radio game programming, inside the Cavaliers’ arena, as well as activation on Cavs digital and social channels and other marketing assets.

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Fubo will also be the presenting partner of Cavs Pick ‘Em, the free-to-play live predictive gaming platform that debuted last season in GameDay+, a second-screen platform inside the Cavs app.

“We couldn’t be more excited to align our Cavaliers brand … in [the] new and rapidly-evolving sports gaming category,” Shelly Cayette, SVP of global partnerships for the Cleveland Cavaliers, said in a statement.

“This partnership is a natural extension of our overall goal to deliver sports fans dynamic and engaging experiences with the teams and sports they love,” said Scott Butera, president of Fubo Gaming.

Fubo expects to launch its branded Fubo Sportsbook in the fourth quarter, subject to requisite regulatory approvals. The launch timeline of Fubo in individual states is to be announced. Fubo Gaming is an authorized gaming operator of the NBA.

Verizon Adds 5G to 60 Sports Arenas; Inks Deal With 15 NBA Teams

With the NBA playoffs upon us, and increasing numbers of fans allowed back into sports arenas, Verizon May 20 announced the deployment of 5G Ultra Wideband in 14 sports arenas and multiyear agreements as the exclusive 5G partner of the 15 NBA teams who play at these venues. The deal brings the total number of arenas and stadiums enabled with 5G to more than 60.

Verizon claims its 5G technology affords users wireless speeds up to 4 Gbps in some places under ideal circumstances, giving them the potential to download and stream movies and TV shows in seconds, video-conference and collaborate on the go in near real time.

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Fans with a 5G-compatible phone can point their devices at a player and get live stats and real-time information about that player. Arenas also have the ability to innovate around public safety, access, concessions and crowd management.

“As fans return to live events, the need to reimagine the in-arena experience and operations has accelerated and [5G] is a critical component,” Brian Mecum, VP of device technology for Verizon, said in a statement. “The deployment of 5G in these arenas is the foundation for unlocking future fan experiences and [marketing] solutions for venue operations.”

Verizon 5G network applications for fans include “ShotTracker,” enabling its sensor-based technology to collect and share game stats with low latency, faster and more accurately than any other platform. The technology, which uses Amazon Web Services’ ‘Wavelength’ features, is currently being tested at a practice facility for the Phoenix Suns. With this technology, teams and broadcasters have the potential to use data to automate the tracking of player shot selection, ball movement and player efficiency to provide near real-time, in-game analysis.

Verizon’s team partnerships and 5G Ultra Wideband-enabled venues include:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers — Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
  • Denver Nuggets — Ball Arena
  • Detroit Pistons — Little Caesars Arena
  • Golden State Warriors — Chase Center
  • Los Angeles Lakers & L.A. Clippers — Staples Center
  • Memphis Grizzlies — FedExForum
  • New York Knicks — Madison Square Garden
  • Oklahoma City Thunder — Chesapeake Energy Arena
  • Phoenix Suns — Phoenix Suns Arena
  • Portland Trail Blazers — Moda Center
  • Sacramento Kings — Golden 1 Center
  • Utah Jazz — Vivint Arena
  • Washington Wizards — Capital One Arena

 

Verizon was previously announced as the official 5G mobile partner of the Philadelphia 76ers. Verizon 5G is also available in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.

The venues are part of the growing list of stadiums and arenas with Verizon’s 5G network available in parts of more than 70 cities, 11 airports, and more than 60 stadiums and arenas. Verizon 5G Nationwide is available to more than 230 million people in over 2,700 cities. Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength is currently available in 10 cities across the U.S.

ESPN’s ‘Last Dance’ Available as Limited-Edition Blu-ray Nov. 10

Disney Media Networks and ESPN Films will release the award-winning documentary series The Last Dance as a Blu-ray Disc gift set Nov. 10.

Winner of the Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction series, the 10-part The Last Dance chronicles Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ efforts to win a sixth NBA championship during the 1997-98 season. The series originally aired on ESPN and is also available on Netflix.

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The Blu-ray gift set includes a 28-page gallery book with photos and episode recaps, a timeline poster, and more than four hours of additional material.

Extras include:

  • Exclusive never-before-seen The Last Dance bonus interviews;
  • “Game 6: The Movie”
  • A never -before-seen uncut version of Stuart Scott’s interview with Michael Jordan on “Sunday Conversation” from June 1998;
  • “In-the-Moment” archival material;
  • “SportsCenter” with Scott Van Pelt roundtables;
  • “The Jalen & Jacoby Aftershow” with Jason Hehir.

 

Crackle Announces New Original Basketball Doc ‘Anything is Possible — The Serge Ibaka Story’

Ad-supported COD service Crackle Plus, in partnership with Screen Media July 22 announced the U.S. premiere of original NBA basketball documentary feature, Anything is Possible – The Serge Ibaka Story, launching on Saturday, Aug. 1.

Making its world debut at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, this feature-length documentary was produced by Vinay Virmani at Uninterrupted Canada, along with Jordi Vilà and Serge Ibaka’s Ouenzé Entertainment. The doc follows the Toronto Raptors’ power forward as he makes an emotional journey back to the Republic of Congo with the Larry O’Brien trophy following the team’s 2019 NBA Championship.

Ibaka takes viewers through the streets he grew up on after he lost his mother and his father was imprisoned for political reasons. He talks basketball with the President of the Republic of Congo, returns to a restaurant where he once begged for food, and visits with his old coach and the basketball club where he fell in love with the game.

“I wanted to tell my story in a unique and different way,” Ibaka said in a statement. “I will never forget where I come from, and my journey to becoming an NBA Champion has been hard to believe. I think everyone can enjoy this film, but I will be especially proud if I can inspire at least one kid, in Congo or anywhere in the world, to give their all to reach for their dreams.”

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“This stirring documentary will not just entertain our sports-hungry viewers, it will inspire viewers to witness how Serge overcame so many obstacles to achieve his dreams,” said Philippe Guelton, president of Crackle Plus.

The doc joins Crackle’s line-up of original content, including “Road to Race Day,” “On Point.” “Cleanin’ Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters,” “The Clearing,” “Crown Vic,” “’85: The Greatest Team in Football History,” “Wonders of the Sea,” “Yelawolf: A Slumerican Life,” and “Going From Broke,” recently picked up for a second season.

Crackle is available in the U.S. and can be accessed on 25 devices and services including Amazon FireTV, RokuTV, Apple TV, Smart TVs (Samsung, LG, Vizio), gaming consoles (PS4 and XBoxOne), Plex, iOS and Android mobile devices and on desktops at Crackle.com. The service is also available in about 500,000 hotel rooms in the Marriott Bonvoy chain.

NBA Launching New Streaming Service With Microsoft

The National Basketball Association may be sidelined due to the coronavirus, but the league officials have been busy readying a new branded streaming service when play resumes.

The league April 16 announced a multiyear deal with Microsoft that includes development of a new direct-to-consumer streaming video service on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

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The service, which will be co-managed by the NBA and WarnerMedia Entertainment’s Turner Sports, will incorporate “machine learning” and artificial intelligence to offer consumers personalized game streaming and TV broadcasts.

Machine learning is the study of computer algorithms that improve automatically through experience. It is seen as a subset of artificial intelligence.

Turner, along with ESPN, has a $24 billion, 10-year broadcast deal with the NBA that goes through the 2024-25 season.

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“By creating a new platform that brings together all the things that make up being an NBA fan — whether that’s watching games, buying a ticket, participating in fantasy or buying merchandise, we can use that platform to re-imagine and diversify what it means to be an NBA fan,” Chris Benyarko, EVP of direct-to-consumer for the NBA, said in a statement.

The NBA currently offers standalone streaming access to out-of-market games through its League Pass SVOD service. The new service with Microsoft would enhance League Pass’ camera angles; multiple game audio options, including a social media influencer calling the game or listening to the game in a different language; and interactive trivia and questions during game telecasts.

“Imagine all of those features now being on a platform that’s able to use deep ‘machine learning’ AI capabilities to serve those up to a user; so instead of the fan having to pick and choose and turn them on or off one by one, the platform is now starting to behave like a game producer, automatically selecting and presenting the game in a different way,” Benyarko said.

The Azure platform aims to create a more personalized fan experience that tailors the content to the preferences of the fan, rewards participation, and provides more insights and analysis.

“The AI eventually learns that I like to learn about stats, so it’s going to start presenting me more information about stats as I go into the game,” said Deb Cupp, VP of enterprise and commercial industries at Microsoft. “It’s this experience where instead of just watching a game, it actually has the opportunity to interact in a way that matters to me as that fan; it’s enriching the experience and frankly just makes it more valuable to me.”

The platform will enable users to set up an account and enter preferences — favorite team, favorite players, statistics, history, trivia and gaming — the software can then customize to that user.

The platform claims to allow users to catch up on games and personalized information they most care about.

“To me, that is what describes the fan engagement,” Cupp said. “It allows me to interact the way I want to interact, at the time I want to interact.”

While the 2020-21 season remains on hiatus due to the coronavirus, the NBA’s collaboration with Microsoft will expand next year with the software behemoth becoming the Official Artificial Intelligence Partner and an Official Cloud and Laptop Partner for the NBA, WNBA, NBA G League, and USA Basketball.

“Together, we’ll bring fans closer to the game and players they love with new personalized experiences powered by Microsoft Azure,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.