SBJ/November 7 - 13, 2005/Media

NBA converts Web video from paid to free

Changes will more closely link
NBA TV and the league’s Web site.
The NBA this week is rolling out a significantly expanded package of broadband video on NBA.com, a move designed to more closely link the league’s Web site and NBA TV. The highlights, features, fantasy segments and other content — collectively dubbed NBA TV Broadband — also will be offered free as the league moves away from a subscription model for its Internet video.

Taking a cue from CNN, which in June dropped its fees for its daily news video content, the NBA will offer fans game highlights — including segments compiled while games are in progress — as well as features and discussion segments from NBA TV and content from cable rights holder TNT.

“The thinking on this was rather straightforward. We needed to do a lot more with broadband video and make it significantly more accessible to people,” said Steve Grimes, NBA senior director of interactive services. “We see this as a direct extension and expansion of what we’re doing on NBA TV.”

Turner Sports will have a significant presence with the broadband network, forming its own online channel “TNT Overtime” to be an expanded platform for its roster of on-air talent, which includes Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller.

“We feel our key differentiators are our talent, and the quality of our NBA programming,” said David Levy, Turner Sports president. “But I only had one night to showcase that. Thursday comes and goes and then we have to wait until the next Thursday. With this, we now have a constant presence and a way to stay consistently in front of NBA fans.”

To compensate for the loss of subscription revenue, the broadband video will arrive with banner ads located at both the top and bottom ends of the video player. Toyota will be the presenting sponsor for NBA TV Broadband. Other sponsors include Reebok, Converse and Finish Line.

The in-game video highlights are a first for the NBA, but since they will not be live, they do not present conflicts with national or local rights holders, and will not carry blackout restrictions, league officials said. A package of first-half highlights will be available early in the third quarter of each game, followed by an updated recap after each contest.

Additional, noteworthy plays such as buzzer-beater shots will prompt additional highlights, with the footage hitting the Web within 30 minutes of it occurring in real time, Grimes said.

Executives for Fox Sports Net, which holds local rights for 21 NBA clubs, said last week they were reviewing potential ramifications of the broadband effort.

The NBA Inside Ticket package, the previous home for the video highlights, is now being sold an audio service for $19.95 for the season, offering home-and-away feeds for every game without blackout restrictions.

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