Sources claim NBA's TV deal with CNN PH a block time agreement

James Harden can now be seen in action on free TV again, but it is not in the way you expect. Nikki Collantes (file photo)
By Dugout Philippines

MANILA—On Wednesday, NBA Philippines came out with a news release that CNN Philippines will carry select games on weekends, giving Pinoy basketball fans the opportunity to catch games on free television beginning Saturday.

[Related Story: NBA games to be aired on CNN Philippines]

This is NBA Philippines’ way of showing to the Filipino audience the habit of bringing the weekend games as a habit.

But Pinoy NBA fans shouldn’t be deceived that CNN Philippines had already secured the exclusive rights of broadcasting the games on TV.

Sources privy to the negotiations said that NBA Philippines is buying airtime to CNN Philippines just to bring the games back on television. It’s far from the previous deals with Solar Philippines, whose channel, BTV, carried the games for many years, and ABS-CBN, showing the games both on free television and cable channels.

Rather than seriously consider the sustainability of its actions, NBA Philippines has gone into an unorthodox Plan B such as do live streaming of select games on Facebook and even pay through the nose through block time on CNN Philippines for a limited period until such time that the negotiations are done.

Highly-placed sources at CNN Philippines have said that NBA Philippines is currently trying to close a deal to air selected NBA games as a paid block time by the NBA so that they are on TV. The block time fee is currently priced at about P500,000 per game.

“That’s because NBA Philippines has yet to strike a deal with any of the TV networks which expressed interest on getting the rights to air the games,” said a source, who requested anonymity.

In a previous report by FOX Sports Philippines, Jane Basas, president of TV5, said that NBA Philippines was asking for too much.

“The price for the TV rights which was offered to us is something we can not even recover,” said Ms. Basas. “They had to lower it a bit, but we came up with our offer. Now the ball is in the hands of the NBA. Hopefully, they will get back to us.”

TV5 and ABS-CBN had jointly made a pitch for the Philippine television rights of the NBA, but another source said that NBA Philippines Managing Director Carlo Singson is asking for the “moon and the stars” in the joint effort of these two giant networks.

With Solar out of the picture, ABS-CBN/Sky Cable and Cignal/TV5 announce they will jointly negotiate for NBA rights for the new NBA seasons 2020-2025. NBA came back to them with a further increase from the 2019 license fee which has been placed as three times the original. 

But in 2019 concerns over the unsustainable fees being charged by NBA for the renewal resulted in pressure on Solar and ABS-CBN’s Sky Cable. NBA increased the broadcast fees almost double over the whole period the Free TV broadcasters were airing the games, resulting in difficulty in covering expenses through sponsorships and pay per view income.

The dispute on the fees between all parties resulted in stoppage of BTV and NBA Premium channels on Sky Cable. When the 2019 contract ended SOLAR did not renew the NBA contract and BTV and NBA Premium ceases operations. Broadcast of NBA stopped.

“If NBA Philippines will continue to push for such offer, the networks will have a difficult time coping up for the expenses they will throw just to bring in the games on television,” said another source. “These networks cannot just impose to increase the add rates on their advertisers just because of the NBA. This is not a soap opera on prime time or a noon time show that has become a part of their daily watching habit.”

Instead of working on its sustainable pricing for local TV to bring the NBA to the local audience, NBA Philippines is spending precious time and money to get public sentiment on their side.  While they may say that they are providing the games “for FREE” on FB Live, this is not entirely a service to the Filipino NBA audience as the viewer will necessarily have to fork out money for the data bandwidth use that they will need to watch the full game.

NBA has been in the Philippines for 18 years through a long-standing partnership with SOLAR Entertainment which created NBA channels such as BTV (Basketball TV) and NBA Premium TV. To help expend the market reach and defray the fees imposed on Solar by NBA it approached ABS-CBN/Studio 23 in 2013 to air remainder of the season on Free TV broadcast.

In 2015, Solar partnered with ABS-CBN to acquire rights for Seasons 2015-2019. ABS-CBN handled Free TV rights and Solar handled Pay TV syndication. ABS-CBN and Sky Cable successfully build the popularity of the NBA, resulting in the highest ratings and audience reach plus the highest engagement and views. In spite of the financial losses, ABS-CBN continued to provide the NBA to the Filipino audience.

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