SBJ/January 23 - 29, 2006/Media

New-look Pass: NBA extends out-of-market package onto the Internet for subscribers

The NBA this week will begin offering its League Pass out-of-market TV package on the Internet, the second major initiative this month highlighting the league’s fast-growing fascination with broadband video.

The move, arriving in conjunction with the typical half-year League Pass subscription offer made at midseason, will make live out-of-market games available via NBA.com for free to both existing League Pass subscribers and those opting for the half-year offer. Subscribers must purchase the television package on either digital cable or satellite to view the games on broadband, as no online-only service is being sold.

“We believe this will be very additive to what we’re trying to do with League Pass,” said Gregg Winik, NBA Entertainment executive vice president. “Broadband is now a truly viable product, and this is an experiment we need to be making.”

Earlier this month, the NBA signed on as an initial content provider for the new Google Video Store, selling full games a day after their completion and archived contests for $3.95 each.

By also making live games on broadband an add-on to the television subscription service, the NBA is charting a different course than the other big leagues. Major League Baseball sells several online video packages separate from the Extra Innings out-of-market TV package. The NFL does not offer any live game action online, and the NHL offers only select games to subscribers of Comcast’s high-speed Internet service.

Winik said the half-season initiative is not necessarily a step toward creating a two-tier revenue system for out-of-market games similar to baseball.

“We’ll use the rest of the season, see what the reaction is, and analyze about where we need to go from there,” he said.

No alterations were made to the league’s contracts with the satellite and cable distributors selling League Pass subscriptions, Winik said. The subscriber total for the package is less than a half-million, NBA sources said, less than one-third the total for the NFL’s popular Sunday Ticket out-of-market package.

League Pass subscribers wanting online access to games will need to register their account at NBA.com, and blackout restrictions will apply just as they do for TV. So while this service could prove a boon for travelers wanting to maintain access to NBA games, the home address of their account will determine the local blackouts, not their log-in location.

The online feed will be the same as what League Pass subscribers see on television. League Pass typically sells for $189 for the full season and $109 for the half season. The offer is good only for this year, as a decision has not yet been made on online video offerings for the 2006-07 season.

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