The National Basketball Association plans to break a new barrier for U.S. sports leagues by streaming live games to local markets on the Web.
According to a story published Monday by the Sports Business Journal, the NBA plans to negotiate contracts for its member teams so they can stream live games to targeted local online audiences this fall. Bill Koenig, executive vice president of business affairs, told the industry publication: "We hope to have a model in place this season. Our opening up of the rights will certainly be done."
The rights Koenig referred to have been a sticky issue since the advent of streaming video and the rush of sports fans to the Internet. Cable operators and regional sports networks hold various exclusive rights to broadcast live games via network TV, cable, radio, and satellite; and they haven't wanted to see the Internet cannibalize their prime-time business by allowing anyone to access games on demand.
The NBA, according to the story, has authorized its teams to introduce live local streaming on their Web sites for the fall season. Details are still unclear; but in theory, Boston residents would be able to watch the Boston Celtics game on the team's Web site.
The NBA reportedly plans to use geo-targeting technology to block out-of-market visitors to the site, so those people would still need to watch it on a national cable station.
The NBA is reportedly still working out the details on whether games would be streamed for free, with advertisements, or even on which sites they would be shown. It is also dealing with rights issues and potential pushback from regional sports networks.