Any cable op that has yet to be approached by the NBA / Turner double team may expect a comprehensive sales pitch in the near future. The league tapped Turner’s expertise in sales and digital rights management to essentially form a single basket of roundball content, with the goal of spurring growth and increasing revenue across all domestic platforms. The pair expects the initiative to greatly benefit out-of-market package NBA League Pass and, both of which TBS will now operate, but moribund NBA TV may become the prime beneficiary. “Through price, programming and through additional digital offerings we’re going to earn distribution the old fashioned way, we’re going to earn it,” said NBA commish David Stern of NBA TV, for which he expects “significant distribution growth” over the next 18 months. Currently available in 15mln US homes via satellite and cable sports tiers, the net must renegotiate its entire file of distribution pacts following this season. As a result, the league and Turner “are going out together to talk to the cable industry” about multi-platform agreements that will also include VOD content, said Stern. Turner ceded to the league its 2% stake in the net as part of the partnership, opting instead for a profit-sharing scaffold. The company takes over programming, marketing and technical operations of NBA TV, and also spearheads wireless plays. “We can offer ad bundles, but not distribution bundles,” said Turner Sports pres David Levy in explaining Turner’s involvement. TNT’s rights to NBA games are unaffected and, in fact, will be enhanced through the inclusion of the net’s league-related content on NBA TV. As first reported by Sports Business Journal, Turner and the league also plan to help NBA teams ink local digital rights deals with RSNs that own the corresponding broadcast rights, such as FSN and ComcastSportsNet. “We will use NBA TV as a laboratory to test digital rights and how they can increase viewership,” said NBA deputy commish/COO Adam Silver.

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