Programming

Tip-Off Time for NBA's Triple Play

Launch of new three screen package is one of several digital firsts for 2010-2011 season 10/25/2010 04:00:00 AM Eastern

In what Turner Sports is billing as a first for sports programming, the Turner Sports and the National Basketball Association will be marketing a triple-play version of the NBA League Pass that will make all out of market games available to League Pass subscribers for one price on three screens-TV, PCs and mobile.

"A couple of years ago we added League Pass Broadband, which is the online version bundled with the linear purchase and now we are adding mobile to that," explains Bryan Perez, SVP and general manager of NBA Digital, a joint venture between Turner Sports and the NBA. "For one price, you can watch it at home on your plasma TV, you can view games on your PC in a hotel room and you can watch it on your mobile phone in a grocery store. It is all authenticated through the same service and available for a single price."

"We believe it is the first time it has been done with a major sport," he adds. "There have been some packages in the past, with the NFL, where you could buy an add-on [to the basic package] and get alternative devices, but no one has ever made a major sport widely available through multiple distributors for one price."

Currently, those distributors include Cablevision, Cox and Dish Network. "We continue to have discussions with the rest of our partners and expect to soon roll out more distribution," Perez added.

Perez declined to comment on pricing, which will be determined by the distributors.

Another major enhancement to the NBA's digital offering will be NBA Turnstile, which Turner is billing as the first professional sports multiplatform check-in application. It will reward fans who attend games or watch them on live TV and connect them to social media platforms like Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, Facebook and Fanvibe.

Perez notes that existing location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla track users with the GPS features of their phones and only reward users who check in from specific locations.

But, Turner has expanded that to include both a physical location check-in and a virtual location, Perez explains. "That means if you are watching a particular basketball game on TV or have gone to see it at the arena, you can check in, press a button and your start earning prizes and rewards. It is a system for rewarding loyalty for not only people who attend games but people who watch them on TV."

Initially, the rewards will be online rewards and badges, but "ultimately you will see us work with sponsors and advertisers to incorporate real world goods," Perez says.

This season will also mark the first time the NBA's digital content will be available on connected TV sets that are powered by Google TV. "We have built an application that works on the Android platform and we're a launch partner with Google TV preinstalled on all their TV sets [which are launching] in the 4th quarter," notes Perez. "It will give viewers the ability to access on their TV scores, stats, standings and highlights from NBA.com."

That work builds on applications NBA digital launched during the playoffs this year to make content available on "VIZIO connected TVs and Roku digital video players," Perez adds. "Google TV is the next step in that evolution."

Perez also stresses that they will be expanding their mobile reach, having already launched over 100 mobile applications and Game Time Courtside, the league's exclusive iPad app. "We've been on the Android platform from the beginning and that has proved to be to our advantage as handset distribution really surged this year," he noted.

Turner doesn't release financials for its digital operations or discuss profitability, but several of the NBA Digital properties have been showing strong growth.

NBA TV's advertising revenues are up 136% year-over-year and it has attracted a number of new advertisers including Allstate, Arby's, BP Amoco, Best Buy, Canon, Diageo, E*TRADE, GameStop, HTC, Hanes, Lucas Arts, Luxottica, Nikon and Under Armour.

NBA TV's top five ad-spending categories are video games, autos, government, insurance and apparel while NBA DIGITAL top categories are wireless, beverages, auto, fast food restaurants, and apparel.

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