SBD/November 20, 2012/MediaPrint All
Google has agreed to pay the NBA a rights fee in the low six figures to stream 350 NBA D-League games live this season. NBA officials describe the one-year deal as an "experiment" and say they will be focused on the number of streams and advertising revenue (which will be sold by YouTube) that is generated from the games. "This is a recognition that a new generation of fans are spending an increasing amount of time on the Internet and, in particular, on YouTube," said NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver. The games will be made available through a D-League channel that is being launched to coincide with the start of the season. Games can be seen on YouTube or via a YouTube video player on NBA.com and team websites. The NBA says the deal will see the D-League produce more live games on YouTube than other major professional sports leagues. The deal also is important, as it gives the NBA a chance to test YouTube's delivery platforms years before its media rights deals with ESPN and Turner expire in '16. "Do we think Google-YouTube will bid for rights in 2016? It's uncertain," Silver said. "I've learned not to try and predict the future in this business. ... The fact that Google is paying a rights fee for live sports definitely gets our attention." The D-League has long served as a laboratory for the NBA to test new products and rules. Last year, the D-League tested new LED stanchion signage before the NBA teams this year adopted the new signs to gain another sponsorship related revenue stream. The D-League in the past has tested lightweight uniforms now worn by NBA teams and also served as a testing ground for the ill-fated synthetic basketball that was rejected by NBA players. The league this year is testing new rules, including using a three-minute overtime instead of the NBA's current five-minute session.
Liberty Media Chair John Malone is among the “growing list of people who think sports programming costs are out of control,” according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. Malone said, “We’ve got runaway sports rights, runaway sports salaries and what is essentially a high tax on a lot of households that don’t have a lot of interest in sports. The consumer is really getting squeezed, as is the cable operator." Flint notes by some industry estimates, sports programming “now accounts for about half of the typical pay-television bill.” Malone said, "The control of sports rights by a few entities has almost created a redistribution of wealth." Malone thinks that it “might be time for the Federal Communications Commission or Congress to step in.” He said, “The only way it is going to change in the short run is for government to intervene” (L.A. TIMES, 11/20).