NBA rethinks digital tiers

Stern expects to cover the MSO market by Labor Day

David Stern, commissioner of the National Basketball Assn., said for the first time that he’s ready to accept separately priced digital tiers for his rookie 24-hour cable network NBA TV.

NBA TV has not managed to secure any deals with cable operators — its sole distributor is DirecTV. In a conference call with reporters, Stern said his thinking has “evolved” from a year ago when he first began pitching NBA TV to MSOs (multi-system cable operators) as a basic service, asking for fairly stiff license fees that could cost a 1 million-subscriber MSO $6 million a year.

But MSOs have promoted their digital sports tiers so aggressively in the past year that these tiers “will actually be better penetrated than we would have thought.”

Stern made the prediction that, by Labor Day, “I expect to have agreements with virtually all the MSOs for the 2003-04 season to carry NBA TV.”

The reason for his optimism: NBA TV schedules four live NBA games a week, plus lots of programming from the association’s library, with “high definition and interactivity down the pike.”

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