SBS and ESPN acquire NBL rights, as Nine sheds free-to-air deal

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 31 July 2019

The National Basketball League (NBL) has a new home, with ESPN and SBS inking a new deal with the top tier Australian basketball competition.

The announcement comes only a year after the NBL signed a revenue-sharing model rights deal with Nine, which would see the two "joined at the hip commercially".

However, the new deal with ESPN and SBS will also see the entirety of the league's 126 game season aired live across SBS' platforms and channel, as well as Foxtel, Kayo and Fetch (through ESPN's deal).

Under the new two-year deal, fans will have access to the entire 2019-20 Hungry Jack’s NBL season for free, with 67 games broadcast on SBS Viceland – an 86% increase in free-to-air coverage compared to the 2018-19 season – and all 126 games available live and free on streaming platform SBS On Demand.

"SBS has a strong heritage of championing sports Australia’s diverse communities are passionate about, and we are thrilled to be partnering with the NBL to become the exclusive free-to-air home of Australian basketball," SBS managing director James Taylor says.

“With around one million Australians playing basketball, it’s one of the nation’s leading team sports for participation and we look forward to bringing fans every memorable minute of one of the country’s fastest-growing leagues.”

ESPN has also secured the live rights to all 59 prime time games and the semi-finals and finals series – to be aired across their broadcast networks ESPN, ESPN2 and WatchESPN. All finals will be simulcast on SBS Viceland and ESPN.

SBS, ESPN and the NBL's new agreement will cover the remaining two years from the initial three-year deal originally with Nine and will cover the broadcast of the 2019/20 and 2020/21 NBL seasons, beginning Oct 3, 2019.

“ESPN is the indisputable home for basketball fans in Australia so it makes perfect sense to add the NBL alongside our exclusive television coverage of the NBA, WNBA and NCAA Basketball," ESPN ANZ general manager Haydn Arndt says.

“We love what the NBL are doing to grow the league and attract high profile talent to our home courts – we saw it last year with Andrew Bogut’s return, and earlier this year with the signings of both LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton. Basketball is booming in Australia and the NBL is primed for growth. We’re very happy to be in business with them.”

NBL owner and executive chairman Larry Kestelman says the new broadcast agreement is a "huge leap forward" in the coverage of the NBL and basketball across Australia.

“It maintains our commitment to make the game available to more people to watch when and how they choose across different platforms and will continue to grow our audience across Australia," he says.

“The agreement means the number of games broadcast on free-to-air television will almost double, making our national league accessible to more Australians, with SBS Viceland becoming the new free-to-air home of the NBL along with more coverage available on SBS On Demand.”

By comparison, the deal with Nine included two games which aired each weekend on the 9GO! multichannel, with the deal also covering digital rights.

Under the deal old deal, Nine and the NBL worked together to commercialise the advertising inventory and broadcast monetisation of all matches across the regular season and finals series.

Additionally, from 16 August, the International Basketball Series will also be exclusively available to watch within Australia on SBS Viceland and can be streamed live and free via SBS On Demand.

These seven pre-FIBA World Cup internationals, as delivered by TEG Live in partnership with Basketball Australia, feature games involving the Australian Boomers, Canada, New Zealand and USA Basketball, including two games between the Australian Boomers and the USA at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.

“We thank Fox Sports for their partnership over the past four seasons and are pleased we will remain on the Foxtel platform on ESPN. We also thank Nine for the role they played in broadcasting games on free to air last season," Kestelman added.

“ESPN and SBS will now become the destination of basketball in Australia as basketball continues to surge in popularity."

Nine confirmed an early termination of its agreement with the NBL. With the code’s partnership with Fox Sports coming to an end, Nine stated the NBL had a unique opportunity to place more live games on free to air television, a decision which it supported.

“SBS is committing more broadcast hours than Nine is able to and we wanted the best for NBL and the growth of basketball in Australia," Nine director of sport Tom Malone says. 

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