NBA To Experiment With Cheap 4th Quarter Only Streaming Options

from the buzzer-beater dept

As entertainment streaming has officially become “a thing”, one leading to massive change in the entertainment landscape, many eyes still turn towards the professional sports leagues. That’s because live professional sports is now one of the last big bulwarks against cord-cutting. With that in mind, it’s interesting to watch the major sports leagues experiment in streaming, a process that began roughly five years ago in earnest. While Major League Baseball has long led the way, the other leagues are catching up. The NBA in 2014 negotiated a new broadcast deal with Disney and TNT, one in which the league insisted that streaming options be significantly expanded. In fact, 14% or more NBA games are now nationally televised on those networks, with streaming options that do not require cable.

While that sort of deal is to be applauded, it’s admittedly fairly vanilla. Put more broadcasts up on streaming services. There’s nothing too experimental about that. Especially compared with a new plan the NBA is kicking around for cheap streams of the last quarter of NBA games.

Now the NBA is testing another, obvious-when-you-think-about-it idea: letting fans watch the 4th quarter of a live, in-progress game for just 99 cents.

On Twitter, Vasu Kulkarni shared a screenshot of a notification sent by the NBA app. For less than a buck, he could hop in and stream the end of a game between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Verge has reached out to NBA Digital for more specifics on how many fans are being presented with this option. I haven’t seen other screenshots or instances of it, and it’s very possible that the price could change as the NBA tries to find a sweet spot. 99 cents seems like a good one, though. Presumably the usual annoyances with these things (i.e. blackouts for local teams) also apply here.

If those annoyances are indeed still in place with this option, it would be a massive mistake. The whole value in offering these cheap streaming options for the more thrilling moments of a basketball game — the end of it — is the ability to draw in the more casual fan to view more broadcasts. Cutting out the local teams, particularly when what’s considered a “local team” is so tortured and laughable for so many markets, undercuts that value at the kneecap. Regardless, it’s good to see a league with this much sway experimenting in this way.

According to Darren Rovell of ESPN, these experiments are unlikely to end merely with end-of-game sequences.

ESPN reporter Darren Rovell predicts that the NBA could turn micro-transactions into a “significant revenue stream” for fans who want to catch the pivotal ending moments of a game. It’s a tiny, tiny fraction of the price of a full League Pass subscription, so it’s a much easier sell for casual fans who would hesitate to fork out for the big package but have no issue paying 99 cents when they get a push notification about a close, high-stakes game. Silver also mentioned the possibility of these streams being offered when a player has a chance of breaking an all-time record or reaching other notable achievements.

As the Verge post notes, this is somewhat akin to the NFL’s RedZone channel, but you pay for what you want and nothing else. Hopefully the antiquated barriers come down along with this experiment and hopefully we’ll see more and more creative options put forth by the leagues as well. If nothing else, it should make some large cable providers start quaking, and that’s always fun.

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Companies: nba

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