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Volume 26 No. 207
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NBA’s Rivera Talks French Market Ahead Of Bucks-Hornets Paris Game

Bucks-Hornets is the NBA's first regular season game in France, but the league will return to Paris in '21
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Bucks-Hornets is the NBA's first regular season game in France, but the league will return to Paris in '21
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Bucks-Hornets is the NBA's first regular season game in France, but the league will return to Paris in '21
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Friday’s Bucks-Hornets game at AccorHotels Arena in Paris will be the NBA's first regular-season match-up in the city, but games and programming have aired in France since the ’84-85 season. The Hornets and Warriors in '94 played a preseason contest in France. This week’s game will be followed by another in Paris next season. NBA Europe & Middle East Managing Dir Ralph Rivera, whose first int’l game in his current role was Knicks-Wizards in London last year, called France “another passionate NBA market.” He noted the country is the NBA’s No. 1 market in Europe for merchandise sales and No. 2 market for League Pass subscriptions. Rivera explained France's appeal, where the country fits within the league’s broader globalization strategy and more in a Q&A with THE DAILY, some of which has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: Is the NBA involved with Paris St. Germain’s growing relationship with Nike and Jordan Brand?
Rivera: While Nike and Jordan Brand are long-time partners of ours, we’re not involved with their partnership with PSG but are supportive of all efforts to grow the game. The partnership between PSG and Nike/Jordan speaks to the natural synergies between football and basketball. As in London in recent years, we can expect a number of high-profile football players in attendance on Friday night.

Q: How did the NBA decide on the ticket prices for this game?
Rivera: Tickets were offered at a variety of price points and were comparable to other marquee entertainment events in Paris and at the AccorHotels Arena. Demand for tickets exceeded availability with a record number of fans registering for ticket information. Similar to what we do for other international games and marquee NBA events such as All-Star, we provide other opportunities for fans to experience the excitement of the game.

Q: What makes the French market appealing?
Rivera: Because of its rich basketball tradition, passionate fans and engaged partners. The 11 French players on NBA rosters this season, including three players on two-way contracts, help drive interest among fans and partners.

Q: How would you compare the response and reception from fans and partners to recent games in London and Asia to the response for this one?
Rivera: We have seen a tremendous response from French fans, partners, the local community and both teams. Building on our nine sold-out, regular-season games in London, this game has become our European All-Star Game, providing an opportunity to engage our passionate fans across Europe and give back to the local community. Activities (this week) include NBA House, a free fan event featuring legend appearances, mascots and dunk teams that will be held in Paris from Jan. 23-26 and several Jr. NBA events that will be attended by current and former players to provide basketball development clinics to French youth.

Q: Where do France and Europe fit in the NBA’s broader overall international expansion efforts?
Rivera: France is a priority market for the NBA. We have a three-pronged strategy to grow the NBA and the game in France and throughout Europe, which includes creating more opportunities for boys and girls to play the game through our Jr. NBA program, bringing the NBA experience to European fans through live games and interactive fan events and making the game more accessible and delivering localized content. One challenge unique to Europe is the timing of NBA games. That’s why we are so focused on making the game more accessible. This season, a record 48 regular-season games are being aired in primetime in Europe as part of the NBA Saturdays (24 games) and NBA Sundays (24 games) campaign.