Dish banking on NBA rebound, 1st operator to offer ‘Team Pass’

By Jim O'Neill on Oct 25 2016 at 9:45 AM
Dish banking on NBA rebound, 1st operator to offer ‘Team Pass’

Satellite pay-TV provider Dish Network is offering NBA Team Pass to its subscribers, the first pay-TV provider in the U.S. to make the $119 single-team package available. The deal delivers any out-of-market game for any of the leagues’s 30 teams live to subs. (Dish also will continue to offer NBA League Pass, which includes up to 40 live and on-demand out-of-market games for $199.)

Dish is hoping to leverage the panache the league carries (for the moment, anyway) with Millennials, who have turned into a more loyal audience for the NBA than any other major pro sport.

The NBA showed an uptick in its TV ratings last year for the regular season, largely due to the phenomenal run the Golden State Warriors had during the season when they set a new record for regular season wins.

After sharp ratings losses in previous years – especially a double-digit drop following the lockout-shortened 2012 season – the league saw ratings rise last year for games that are broadcast nationally, on all four of the networks it’s partnering with. ABC was up 9%, ESPN was up 10%, NBA TV saw a whopping 19% jump and TNT eeked out a 1% rise.

The concern, of course, is that last year’s blip was just that, a temporary bright spot for the league driven by a rare occurrence.

NBA ratings had been declining for a couple of years prior, and have been seen their national audience erode with the similar declines suffered by pay-TV operators and cable networks.

Adding to the problem: The median viewer age for sports is climbing. Between 2004 and 2014, for example, the average age of people watching the NFL on ESPN climbed from 43 years old to 47. Major League Baseball’s average viewer went from 43 to 56.

But basketball stayed at 37. It was rewarded with a broadcasting deal through the 2024-25 season worth $2.6 billion a year.

Dish is hoping the surge isn’t temporary, and is investing in Team Pass to boost its own subscriber struggles.

It’s also dangling a free, week-long trial to the service starting today through Nov. 1, unlocking NBA Team Pass to all customers.

Games watched on Dish will be subject to local blackouts depending on the customer's location.

Stay tuned.

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