In this day and age, online streaming of games isn't just a luxury, it's now expected. The National Basketball Association appears to be taking a great leap forward. John Ourand and John Lombardo in this week Sports Business Journal report that the Association is close to deals allowing in-market streaming of games. If this comes to fruition for the 2013-14 season, the NBA would become the first U.S. professional league that allows all of its games to be streamed locally. MLB, the NFL and the NHL all have out-of-market streaming for big fees, but do not allow the games to be seen online locally.
It appears that the league's largest local rightsholders, Fox Sports Media Group and NBC Sports Group will allow their games to be streamed from the outset. The other local rightsholders, Altitude, MSG, Root Sports and Time Warner Cable are expected to follow suit later in the season.
Now here's how this would work. If you're familiar with authenticating through your cable provider, then you're halfway there. Cable providers will be required to have a deal in place with the participating regional sports networks. Subscribers will then have to sign in through their cable or satellite accounts to watch the local games. Once that is done, viewers can watch games on their computers, tablets or mobile phones.
It appears that the Fox Sports Net games will be available on the Fox Sports Go app. Comcast SportsNet games will be avaialble through the local CSN websites. Originally, the NBA wanted the games available on its team sites, but the cable providers balked. Now the team sites will provide links to Fox Sports Go or to the Comcast SportsNet pages. And when the other RSN's come on-board, links will be made for them as well.
The good thing is that there won't be an extra charge so as long as fans have a cable TV subscription, they'll be able to watch their local team online.
There have been many hurdles that have prevented local online streaming including rights fees, where to stream the games and whether to charge the regional sports networks. Once the issues that blocked local in-market streaming for six seasons were cleared, it paved the way for fans to watch their teams at their convenience.
The conventional thinking was that when one professional league allowed local streaming, the other leagues would fall in line. Now that the NBA has blazed the trail for in-market streaming, here's hoping MLB, the NFL and the NHL will allow it in the next few years.