NBA, TBS join on digital rights

Times Staff Writer

The NBA on Thursday detailed plans to dramatically expand its digital business deal with Turner Broadcasting System by turning over operation of its league website, a 24/7 digital television channel and a cable and satellite television package that lets avid fans watch out-of-town games.

NBA Commissioner David Stern’s decision to partner with a media company on digital rights runs counter to the go-it-alone strategies adopted by the NFL and MLB. Stern, speaking during a Thursday news conference in New York, said that handling digital media internally would be too expensive for the league and preclude the NBA from harnessing Turner’s digital savvy and existing advertising sales force.

NBA and Turner officials declined to put a dollar value on the newly expanded contract that will run through 2016. Stern described the deal as “a licensing arrangement with profit sharing . . .We’re going to be going out and doing this together, and sharing the burdens and the benefits.”


The NBA will phase out much of the digital media handled in its Secaucus, N.J., facility and shift it to a Turner office in Atlanta. The league will continue to produce content for foreign markets in Secaucus.

The new deal calls for TBS to host and operate the website and the online operations of the WNBA and the NBA developmental league. TBS also will operate League Pass, a satellite and cable package that lets fans watch out-of-town game broadcasts.

In a related matter, Stern said that the NBA will seek approval next year from cable television operators to move the 24/7 NBA TV channel from thinly distributed sports tiers to basic digital packages. Stern said that the league will present “a compelling value proposition” that will include a lower cost to cable companies and a renewed emphasis on the channel’s wealth of games.