Thursday, December 14

Thursday Morning Whine

Today, with last night’s loss fresh in our minds, I thought I’d take the opportunity to use that foul taste to vent on something that’s been bothering me all season: NBA League Pass and its bastard step-child NBA Broadband.

I live in Canada, and I don’t have extended cable, but I’d like to watch the Sonics play. These are my options:

1. Get digital cable, which enables me to see the Sonics about once every other week on the various Canadian all-sports channels.
2. Buy a satellite dish, and get somebody to install an illegal satellite chip that enables me to watch Fox Sports NW.
3. Buy NBA League Pass, which enables me to watch the games on tv ... and on the internet.

But here’s the kicker. This is the option I want, but cannot get:

4. Get NBA Broadband, but not League Pass

You see, I’m not interested in paying $200 for NBA League Pass for the occasional time I’d like to watch the Sonics play. I am interested in NBA Broadband, but according to NBA policy, you can only get NBA Broadband IF you order NBA League Pass, or, as the league puts it, “NBA LEAGUE PASS Broadband is not sold as a stand-alone product. You must be an active NBA LEAGUE PASS satellite or digital cable subscriber to get NBA LEAGUE PASS Broadband.”

My question is: Why? Why can major league baseball – perhaps the most stodgy of all the major sports – offer all of their games on the internet for about $15 a month, but the NBA can’t? Why am I forced to subscribe to something I don’t want – NBA League Pass – in order to get something I do want – NBA Broadband?

Can someone smarter than me explain why the NBA deems it necessary for their customers to buy League Pass, when there are thousands of people like myself who only want to watch the games on the internet, and who are willing to pay for it? That it’s either pay us $199 for League Pass, or nothing?

At this moment, you can go to mlb.com and sign up for mlb.tv all winter long for $15. Now, there’s not much going on in the winter, but that’s a heckuva deal. Why is Major League Baseball able to do this, but the NBA – the self-proclaimed purveyor of all things hip and now – is not?

Maybe there’s an intelligent explanation out there. Until I hear it, though, I’m forced to use things like TVU or SopCast to watch TV on the internet, and hope the connection works when the Sonics are on.

9 comments:

Paul Merrill said...

The Seattle Weekly loves Nussbaum:
Read it here

Blame Canada said...

Slightly challenged by the internets, so forgive me if I'm missing something.

NBA League Pass is $200. $200 divided by 8 months (Nov-Jun) equals $25/month. $10 more than MLB, granted, but Luther Head looks better in short pants than David Wells...

Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton said...

Congrats on the mention in Seattle Weekly! Looking forward to seeing the three of you on Evening Magazine one of these nites (do they still run that show?)

Here's an attempt at what I hope is an 'intelligent explanation" for the NBA's inability to provide a live game streaming option at a similar price to MLB.com.

According to the WSJ earlier this year, "MLB.com first mastered the technology to show baseball games live on its own site, itself a wildly popular business. Now, it sells its expertise, having already signed up 25 clients, including CBS, Major League Soccer and the World Championship Sports Network. Entertainers Jimmy Buffett and LL Cool J, too, have hired MLB.com to promote albums and concerts by streaming video of interviews and live performances."

In other words, while live streaming video is a cost center for the NBA, MLB.com got in early and is now making money hand over fist. Reportedly, 15% of MLB.com's total revenue last year came from selling this type of technology.

My guess is that the $200/yr rate is probably a break-even price for the NBA since they have to license the technology. After the WNBA debacle, one can't blame David Stern for not wanting to create yet another loss leader.

nuss said...

Still waiting to hear why the NBA can't sell the internet-only version, rather than selling it only when bundled together with League Pass.

Teh comment that it's $200 divided by 8 months isn't entirely true. The regular season starts in November, yes, but it ends in mid-April, which means you're actually dividing $200 by 5 1/2 months, or the equivalent of $36 per month. Plus, on mlb's deal, you're getting about 2,500 games, as opposed to about 1,200 games in the NBA's deal.

So, you can pay $15 a month for 2,500 games a year, or $36 per month for 1,200 games.

I'm surprised the NBA wasn't more pro-active with this idea, in that they seem to promote themselves endlessly as the be-all of what's hip. Honestly, if I had asked you five years ago whether the NBA or MLB would be the first to get in on this type of technology, how many people would have said that the sport led by Bud Selig would be the pioneer, and the David Stern and Mark Cuban would be pulling up the rear?

It's pretty surprising.

Anonymous said...

I am in total agreement here. I live in Hawaii so most of the time when games are on I am still at work and when I can watch them their not on TV. So even if I bought LP I would only be getting about 35% of the games (West Coast), so theres no way I'm doing it. Broadband League Pass though? I would sign up immediately.

Anonymous said...

I am in total agreement here. I live in Hawaii so most of the time when games are on I am still at work and when I can watch them their not on TV. So even if I bought LP I would only be getting about 35% of the games (West Coast), so theres no way I'm doing it. Broadband League Pass though? I would sign up immediately.

Anonymous said...

The real kicker is that this restriction is only for US residents. If you live outside of the US, you can buy the online version of League Pass separately for $5.95 a day, or $129.00 for the entire year...

http://www.nba.com/broadband/league_pass_intl.jsp

So my guess is that there is something in the DirecTV and DishNetwork contracts that would make the situation in the US more difficult.

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