Live local streams of games to be available in all NBA markets

By John Ourand & John Lombardo on July 25, 2016 at 6:59 AM

After eight years of fits and starts, the NBA finally will offer local streaming leaguewide to authenticated customers.

For the first time, every NBA team will offer live local streams of its games this season, as deals are close for all regional sports networks that carry NBA games.

“We expect all teams to be streaming this year,” said David Denenberg, senior vice president of global media distribution and business affairs for the NBA.

Last season, Root Sports RSNs in Utah and Houston along with Altitude’s RSN in Denver were the lone holdouts, but the NBA says all teams are expected to be on board starting in October, along with Fox Sports, NBC Sports Group, MSG Network, and TWC SportsNet.

While NBA and RSN executives refused to disclose terms, sources said each of the deals is for five years and should be finalized in the next few weeks. Financial terms vary but sources say RSNs have agreed to pay roughly $1 million per team per year for the right to stream games locally.

Deals were made in conjunction with a renewal of the RSNs’ outer rights pacts with the NBA that allows RSNs to carry games outside of a team’s home market.

For RSNs, the main value of these deals comes from the outer market rights, which help them expand distribution of their channels and allows, for example, FS Ohio to carry Cleveland Cavaliers games in Cincinnati.

Fox and the NBA were the first to launch in­market streaming services during the 2013­14 season. Executives with both sides said that streaming viewership has been popular enough that the two sides never wavered in cutting a deal.

“We are pleased with the growth,” Denenberg said. “We have not been disappointed. We worked with the RSNs on authentication to try to make it simpler. We want our fans to stream more content.”

Neither side would comment on take­up rates for the live streams. But a source said that an online benchmark typically shows that a little more than 1 percent of a linear television audience is considered a sizable streaming audience.

For example, if an RSN averages 300,000 viewers per game, that would mean roughly 3,000 to 3,500 uniques are live­streaming it locally — a number that is in line with industry averages but shows a lot of room for growth.

Not surprisingly, the best results have come from the markets with the biggest television ratings. CSN streams of Golden State Warriors games have been particularly high, sources said, due to the combination of a popular team playing in a tech­savvy market.

Streams of Cavs games drew Fox’s biggest online audiences last season.

The Warriors and Cavs had the league’s highest RSN TV ratings last season, too.

NBA owners addressed the renewal at the board of governors meeting in Las Vegas held on July 12.

Because of the many games combined with local TV deals, the NBA, NHL and MLB have been the most active leagues in local streaming. Fox Sports has local streaming deals with the NBA, NHL and MLB.

NBC Sports Group, the other big RSN operator, has a local streaming deal only with the NBA, though its executives are in negotiations with the NHL and MLB.

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