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USA Networks, NBA team for marketing deal

The duo unveils a cross-marketing relationship to sell and market NBA merchandise through USA Networks' properties.

USA Networks and the National Basketball Association today unveiled a cross-marketing relationship to sell and market NBA merchandise through USA Networks' e-commerce, television and customer service properties.

As previously reported, the deal allows the NBA to sell merchandise and game tickets on USA Networks' online properties, such as Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch. The online retail aspect of the deal will center on the relaunch of the NBA Store on NBA.com this spring.

In addition, the deal gives the NBA the ability to promote itself through USA Networks' broadcasting channels, such as the Home Shopping Network. The shopping channel will air NBA shows and specials, while its fulfillment includes managing delivery of goods and services to buyers. The programs will be promoted on other stations, including the broadcaster's flagship cable station USA Network, the Sci-Fi Channel and USA Broadcasting.

USA Networks' Electronic Commerce and Services unit will also provide other services within the agreement, such as producing NBA catalogs, developing an NBA marketing database, and managing customer care.

"By establishing this partnership with (USA Networks), we believe we can significantly raise the profile of our commerce efforts across all media platforms, creating a seamless backbone for our commerce activities,'' NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement.

Barry Diller, USA Networks' chief executive, added: "This new area of integrated electronic commerce...is wonderfully illustrated by this new association; and our being able to structure it with the vaunted marketing professionalism of the NBA is our great good fortune."

The partnership continues USA Networks' effort to beef up its online retail assets. The company recently acquired Styleclick, which helps manufacturers set up Web storefronts. With the acquisition, USA Networks will merge the company with Internet Shopping Network, which runs shopping services including FirstAuction.com and FirstJewelry.com.

"We're going to continue to see offline and online (interests) converge, whether it be basketball or movie tickets," said Zona Research analyst Clay Ryder. "The Web becomes another medium to target customers."

Weeks before the Styleclick deal, USA Networks acquired Precision Response for about $657.8 million in stock to boost customer service to its e-commerce companies.

Up to now, the NBA has remained relatively quiet in terms of outlining a Web strategy--in contrast with its stupendous broadcast distribution--though Stern is known to harbor big plans. NBA games are seen in more than 200 countries, according to the league, making an effective Net strategy worthwhile.

NBA.com, overseen by Disney's Go Network, already is consistently among the Net's 10 most-popular sport sites.