There was a little bit of a rumbling (read: a mini-freakout) from a section of hardcore NBA fans on Tuesday, when a mass email was sent out from the league in error that announced a skyrocketing of the price to purchase League Pass for next season.
The service that allows access to watch
all most regular season games either over the internet or through your local cable provider is essential to NBA junkies, and after the small amount of hysteria that went down in response to the emailed announcement, the league confirmed its pricing for the service for the 2013-14 season.
The Premium full season package that includes all teams will go for a $189 early bird price, and will be $199 after Nov. 5.
The 5-Team Choice Package (broadband only) is $129.99 early bird, and 139.99 after Nov.5 The mobile package to watch games live on your cell phone or tablet will be $49.99.
These prices are in line with what was charged last season, and it’s fair for the offering. There have been wide-ranging complaints about the quality of the service — games being “unavailable due to technical difficulties,” not every game being offered in HD 100 percent of the time, and shaky quality of broadcasts — but overall I found the service to be of more than serviceable quality the majority of the time.
My issues with League Pass are more about the games that you can’t watch via this service.
The limitations are extremely frustrating, and include the following:
– Games televised on NBA TV are not included in League Pass broadband (i.e., NBA TV must be purchased through your cable operator in order to view these games): This doesn’t seem like a fair exclusion. If it’s NBA TV and I’m paying to watch NBA games, then those shown on this channel should be available through my League Pass broadband account.
– Games televised on TNT, ESPN, or ABC are not included in the League Pass broadband package: This one doesn’t make sense, because if the games are offered technically for free over the air, I should be able to see them over the league’s broadband service as one of its paying customers.
– League Pass broadband archives all games for later viewing, which is fantastic. However, the ones shown on the previously-mentioned networks aren’t included, and my local team’s games are both blacked out live and are not available via the archive service. As a journalist who attends my local team’s games in person (or is traveling to see games in other cities), if I forget to set the DVR for whatever channel the game where I live happens to be shown on, I’m unable to watch when I get home or the following day.
Of course, I understand why these restrictions are in place. The NBA is trying to get more people to watch its games on these networks that pay the league billions for broadcast rights, and isn’t trying to get fans to cut the cord with cable by offering its product by itself for a flat rate price.
(Full disclosure: I literally only turn on my television to watch live sports in real time. I would definitely drop my cable subscription if I could pay whatever to watch 100 percent of NBA games online.)
But if the NBA wanted to do right by its fans, it would find a way to distribute those dollars wherever they need to go behind the scenes, and provide the full compliment of its games to its customers for one flat rate, in one simple online solution.