While the AFL are fond of talking the talk when it comes to online rights, one Australian sporting code has finally stepped up to walk the walk. From this season, NBL.TV will show all NBL games live online and across a number of digital platforms.
For just $79 fans will be able to see every NBL game for the season on their PCs, mobiles and tablets, or through IPTV.
As a comparison, the AFL this season only offers coverage on some of these platforms – PCs are a no-go – and only to customers of Telstra.
Recently, chief executive Andrew Demetriou hinted that the league had met with NBN Co on a broadband-based product.
In the past, the boss has made no secret of his desire to one day start selling the AFL product directly to consumers.
But when the latest broadcast deal was finalised last year, the AFL went for the safe option and once again partnered with Telstra. The game’s digital offering was improved, but it was still well short of the standard set some time ago by various leagues in the United States.
As for the NRL, their new broadcast deal announced last week sent IPTV rights for five games to Foxtel, who will also develop a tablet product for the league.
However, it appears as though – much like the AFL with Telstra – only customers of a certain provider, in this case Fox, stand to benefit from the NRL deal.
As it stands, only certain platforms are covered too – mobile rights are yet to be sold.
Then in comes the NBL, who hasn’t been renowned as a pace-setter in Australian sport since the 90s.
Coming off a season where games were shown at ridiculous hours, you’d be forgiven for having low expectations when it comes to NBL coverage. However, Basketball Australia have managed to engineer a very decent package for both current fans and the casual sports fan.
The original broadcast deal with Network Ten was renegotiated. Firstly, this meant that one live game each Sunday will be shown on Ten and a separate game Friday nights on One on delay.
But another aspect to the new deal was that digital rights were transferred from Ten back to the league, who got to work on putting together NBL.TV.
Both these developments are equally important. Being on a primary free-to-air network is a huge advantage in terms of attracting viewers who wouldn’t normally watch basketball, or haven’t done so for years. It’s also a great way to capitalise on any momentum stemming from the London Olympics.
Meanwhile, having a market-leading product across a host of devices to cater for the purists is a great way to reward those who’ve stuck by the game. To some these devices won’t mean much, but for the cost of a HDMI cable fans can even put games on their TV if they choose.
Partially, the NBL is able to make this move because the likes of Telstra and Foxtel aren’t prepared to throw significant cash at them. That very obvious point has to be conceded.
However, this type of service is something that basketball fans – spoilt rotten by the magnificent NBA League Pass product – have been demanding.
Truthfully, a product of this nature is well overdue in the Australian market.
So while last week this column was forced to lament basketball completely missing out as some of the best sports administrators in the country went on the market, this week the tune is a bit different.
For once, basketball has got one up over their much larger rivals.
Now, the questions are about why, given how long leagues overseas have been doing this, have the AFL and NRL been so slow? Why are they not catering to fans who want to access the game on devices other than TV in the best and most comprehensive manner possible?
Why is it that a minor league in terms of our sporting landscape has been able to trump them?
See also: Original article at The Roar
Michael DiFabrizio is a journalism student at the University of Wollongong. As an AFL writer, he has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009 and has appeared in The Age and on ABC television and radio.