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The NBA’s latest push for ubiquity and digital revenue could allow fans to bypass pay TV operators for access to live games. NBA Digital is expanding access to more connected TVs and adding a premium app for purchase directly from the set.
NBA Digital was a launch partner with Google (NSDQ: GOOG) TV through its free Game Time app. It’s also on Roku and offered through Vizio Internet Apps. At CES today, the league and its digital partner Turner will announce deals with Panasonic, *LG* and Samsung to bring the free app, which includes video highlights, scores and stats optimized for lean-back HD, to their internet-connected TVs.
At the same time, NBA Digital is launching a new premium version of the app across connected devices. That version, yet to be priced, will an extensive video library, live game audio, searchable stats, news, and access to out-of-market package League Pass Broadband for live and archived full game video. In an interview, Bryan Perez, SVP and GM of NBA Digital, tells paidContent the cost of the app “will probably be more along the lines of how we’ve priced to premium upgrade on the mobile.” Upgrading to Game Time (NYSE: TWX) Plus runs $10 on the iPhone. To access live and archived games through the app, the user would need a separate League Pass subscription. League Pass Mobile is $50 but the broadband-only version starts at $120 for seven teams and runs $190 for all 30 teams for the regular season.
He said the video quality will be high enough to watch the live games on a broadband connected TV. That would allow people who currently pay for packages through video distributors like Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), DirecTV (NYSE: DTV) or AT&T (NYSE: T) U-verse to buy directly from NBA.TV and, if they want, bypass the distributor. Or, which is more likely, it would be an option for fans who don’t subscribe to pay TV.
Roku is in testing now for premium. Samsung is supposed to go live this month with the rest coming around the All-Star break in February.
Google TV: Perez said NBA Digital is pleased so far with Google TV and with Google’s commitment to continue developing the service. “It’s a good situation for us. We’re pretty pleased with how our app looks on that platform. The data serves up quick. We’ve had positive feedback on the app.”
TV vs. Mobile: One surprising bit: so far, usage via Google TV and mobile devices including the iPad is strikingly similar. Two-thirds of usage comes between 7 p.m, and 3 a.m. What they use it for — highlights, scores, stats — comes within single percentage points of each other.
NBA apps: NBA Digital ended last season with 2 million apps installed; that includes free and premium with the bulk being free. The season hasn’t hit the halfway mark and the number is already up past 3 million.