NBA to bow 24-hour net

Web to feature highlights, live coverage

NEW YORK — The National Basketball Assn. will launch a 24-hour television network in six weeks called NBA.com TV.

Programmed by NBA Entertainment, the web, bowing officially on Nov. 2, will feature live, studio-based news-and-interview shows supplemented with game highlights, live coverage of primetime games in progress, footage of vintage NBA contests and basketball-themed movies.

The network, whose initial circulation will come from digital distribution via DirecTV and Viewer’s Choice, will draw heavily on the NBA’s Internet site for basketball statistics, scores and news, which will often run in scrolling ribbons across the bottom of the picture.

“This channel will give real added value to our subscribers,” said Rich Goldberg, VP of program acquisitions for DirecTV, which plans to make NBA.com TV available to about 1.5 million of its 5.6 million subscribers.

To get NBA.com TV on DirecTV, the satellite-dish owner will have to buy either the out-of-market-games package called NBA League Pass for $169 a year, or buy the tier of services under the Gold umbrella.

Rob Jacobson, senior VP of distribution and product development for Viewer’s Choice, said that most of VC’s digital subscribers — up to about 1 million — will get NBA.com TV whether they subscribe to NBA League Pass or not.

Carriage requests

David Stern, commissioner of the NBA, says he’s already getting carriage requests for NBA.com TV from digital-cable and satellite providers in Japan, Spain, the U.K. and Mexico. “We see a very big application for this new service globally,” Stern said.

The main buyers of NBA League Pass, said Jacobson, are “the hard-core junkies that can’t get enough basketball” on NBC, TNT and TBS, as well as the expatriate fan who has moved, say, from New York to Los Angeles and wants to watch all of the games of the New York Knicks.

Those two categories constitute a relative minority among all sports fans; only about 150,000 of them have bought NBA League Pass on DirecTV. But Stern said NBA.com TV will act as a barker channel for the League Pass, possibly inducing more viewers to sign up for out-of-market games.

NBA.com TV is going slow on signing advertisers, Stern said, because the NBA wants to get the channel up and running before pitching it to sponsors.

The plan is to keep NBA.com TV on the air year-round, using news of the Womens’ National Basketball Assn. from July to September during the NBA’s hiatus, as well as information about NBA draft picks, Olympic tryouts, foreign basketball leagues and domestic summer leagues, among other off-season events.