SBJ/February 26 - March 4, 2007/This Weeks News

NBA League Pass should remain on cable, Stern says

No sooner had word leaked that Major League Baseball was close to selling its out-of-market rights exclusively to DirecTV, than NBA Commissioner David Stern was on the phone with some of the cable industry’s most powerful dealmakers from Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

“David made it clear that he wants to do a deal with cable,” said an industry insider who requested anonymity because of the open negotiations. “Cable just needs to come up with the cash.”

Speaking at the NBA’s All-Star Game in Las Vegas, Stern confirmed that view of the negotiations, saying that he prefers to continue with the current structure, which has cable and satellite sharing rights to the league’s out-of-market package, NBA League Pass. He said he would accept an exclusive satellite deal for League Pass only if the offer is too good to turn down.

“We hope to continue the distribution pattern,” Stern said. “It has achieved our goals economically by making it available to both.”

The league’s dedicated channel, NBA TV, has carriage on both cable and satellite systems, and is in 12 million homes. Most cable operators carry the channel on dedicated sports tiers that are not highly penetrated.

The NBA’s TV deals, including its League Pass package, end after next season. ESPN and Turner appear likely to renew their deals.

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