The ball is clearly in the NBL’s court. Announced today, an agreement will potentially see all NBL games on Fox Sports live throughout the country for the next five seasons. Yes, you read right. Live. Not near live, or just live in the Eastern States, much to a sandgroper’s chagrin.
To put it simply. We have not seen this sort of coverage in the NBL ever. The 90s gave us a largely regional market where a team’s games were usually only played in that city. The 2000s gave us more or less two games a week live on Foxtel and more recently two games a week on Network Ten, one live and one delayed.
The catch however, is that Fox can review this agreement after one year. So for Larry Kestelman, his time is now. Since his anointment as the king of the NBL he has preached where he wants to see the game, as a class leading sports and entertainment package. Like most of us, I believe it can be, but with only a season to prove its worth, the NBL as a package needs to hit the ground running at full stride. The good news is that there are heaps of little ways to add to the overall quality of the product. On screen stats could be one way. Seeing what the AFL have done with providing real time stats in their broadcasts provides many ideas for the NBL.
Whilst we are talking about the AFL, it’s obvious that a lot of success of this agreement with Fox Sports stems on the number of Foxtel subscriptions there are because of the Fox Footy Channel. No doubt the idea is that these avid sports fan keep tuning in to the sports channels in between the AFL season and this is where the NBL pounces, providing live sport to the sports fans that crave it. Australia seems to love its live sport.
The flipside to cutting a deal with a subscription based sports broadcaster is also apparent. Foxtel has somewhere around 2.6 million subscribers. Australia has more than 9 million households. That is a pretty low strike rate. $50 a month, or whatever a Foxtel subscription is with the sports package could be out of reach for some NBL fans, Fans without Foxtel are the hardest hit.
That is until we look at the one game simulcast on a FTA station a week clause. Does this necessarily need to be at a national level? Could we not look at it regionally? For instance could a Perth based network simulcast a Wildcats game once a week, and a Sydney based network simulcast a Kings game? Is there a need to simulcast the same game into all markets? If not, this is a way better outcome than having enough NBL on FTA to let people know the league still exists.
The NBL stands here now, a month out from the start of the season, a TV partnership in one hand, plans to deliver an entertaining sports package in the other. With a long term media partnership on the horizon, the ball definitely is in the NBL’s court, and I look forward to seeing what they do.