Online streaming of games is the future. It’s a fast-growing part of the NBA’s Broadband League Pass platform, where fans can buy just one game or an entire package (or the season) of games. Plus, nearly all local team broadcast stations stream the game online to fans that subscribe in that market to their service. (For an example here at NBC/Comcast, subscribers to Comcast SportsNet in the Bay Area can stream Warriors games online for free (there are links on this site in season). The same is true of the Celtics in Boston, the Wizards in Washington D.C., and so on.) The local broadcast partners have streaming rights.
But that may be about to change, starting with the Clippers and Steve Ballmer. He is near a new deal where the team will retain the streaming rights, reports the New York Post.
Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is weighing a deal with cable channel Prime Ticket that would allow the team to retain streaming rights, The Post has learned.
If the Clippers and Prime Ticket ink the TV rights deal, it would be the first among the four major sports leagues where the team kept streaming rights, sources familiar with the prospective deal said….
Under terms, the Clippers would only be able to offer a streaming service to Prime Ticket customers. The NBA retains out-of-market streaming rights.
For a tech guy like Ballmer (the former Microsoft CEO), this seems like a first step. Right now the Clippers would only be able to offer streaming to Prime Ticket customers, but you can be sure that the long-term goal here is to separate the two and expand that streaming market.
Streaming is growing as younger generations grow up using tablets and mobile devices to consume media more than traditional televisions. Those fans want their NBA games on those devices. This is both a fast growing segment of the eyeballs on any particular game, and it’s a lucrative one — whoever has the streaming rights can sell ads into the commercial spaces, as well as before the game starts to stream, plus have ads that pop up in the margins of the screen.
Currently the NBA itself controls the out-of-market streaming while the local broadcast partners have the in-market streaming. But as that streaming market grows, you can bet there will be a tug of war over who gets to control — and profit from — those streams. This is merely the first salvo in a long battle.
As a side note, this new Prime Ticket deal likely means more money for the Clippers, but not Lakers-level money. Despite the fact the Clippers have been a top NBA team and the Lakers have struggled, the Lakers still have had much better local ratings the past couple of seasons.