David Stern heads into his final season as NBA Commissioner this season and there are many decisions and moves he made that can be legitimately criticized. However, it is difficult to conceive that anybody could have marketed and help grow the Association better than he has during his tenure. His dream was to take a sport that had their Championship Tournament, broadcast on a four-hour tape-delay basis by CBS, into a game embraced by the planet and he has seen his dream turn into reality. Children on the other side of the globe, sport Kevin Durant and LeBron James jerseys amazing American tourists.
One of the Associations broadcasting partners told reporters earlier this week that they were planning on going full-bore to retain their broadcasting rights. “Sports Business Daily” reported that ESPN president John Skipper said that the network would pull out all the stops to sign a new contract with the NBA when the current deal expires after the 2015-2016 campaign. Skipper said that the Association is a “critical product” for the network and told media members “There are plenty of live sports rights, but the ones that make a difference are scarce.”
The network president was asked about the possibility that the Association could ink a deal with a major website to broadcast games only on the Internet in the next round of negotiations. Skipper did not give the concept much credence as he said “It is incomprehensible to me that the NBA would decide to put their games on a digital platform, and that sports fans are going to make a transformation, saying, ‘I’m going to go to Yahoo to watch my games tonight.’ I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think they have any way to monetize those rights in the same way that traditional (networks can).”
It was not all that long ago that the NBA relegating Playoff contests to cable networks was looked at as madness, however the system has done very well since 2002 with most of the games on ESPN or TNT. Yet I recall quite clearly talking to Orlando Magic Senior Vice President Pat Williams after the deal was announced and I asked him if it was a step-back for the NBA. Williams correctly predicted that it would be a successful marriage and the Association would prove to be quite pleased with the results.
The NBA proved to be ahead of the curve moving their games to cable, could a website possibly NBA.com be in the mix with the next round of negotiations? Internet penetration in this country and around the world is growing at an astronomical rate, by the Summer of 2016 it will only be more prevalent. Could the Internet be a successful venue for the game and help propel it to a new level? Broadcast on your laptop in HD quality, plus with more and more “Smart TV’s” in families homes, you will most likely be able to enjoy the game on your big screen in the family room.
That day is coming; the only question is will the technology and the acceptance be there for the next round of negotiations. I would not be surprised to see the Internet, get at least a taste in next contract as the Association keeps trying to expand their fan base.