The NBA and Fox Sports announced a multi-year partnership Monday that will place 16 games on Fox networks this summer. Only the contests won’t feature NBA teams. Or WNBA teams. Or G League teams. Or even Summer League teams.
Instead, Fox and FS1 will broadcast the Jr. NBA World Championship, a brand-new youth basketball tournament featuring girls and boys from around the world, ages 13 and 14.
“We jumped at the opportunity to partner with the NBA on this unique event,” Fox Sports president Mark Silverman said in a statement. “The NBA’s stars of tomorrow — the next Dwyane Wade or Candace Parker — might get their first big turns in the spotlight with us, right here at FOX Sports.”
The inaugural Jr. NBA World Championship will run from August 7-12, featuring eight American teams and eight international teams in both the girls and boys divisions. FS1 will carry select games leading up to the tournament’s final two days, when the Fox flagship network will air the U.S. and international championship games, as well as the world championship games between those winners. In all, Fox networks will televise 16 games totaling 20 hours of programming.
Somewhat amusingly, the event will take place at a venue named for Fox Sports’ chief rival: the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort outside Orlando.
This deal likely appealed to Fox for several reasons. For one thing, the Jr. NBA World Championships will take place in August, one of the slowest sports months on the calendar, so there’s no real opportunity cost. We’ve seen networks in recent years scoop up all sorts of off-beat summer tournaments, from The Basketball Tournament (on ESPN) to American Flag Football League’s U.S. Open of Football (on NFL Network) to Ice Cube’s BIG3 (on Fox), apparently believing that any live-event coverage is better than no-live event coverage.
And for another thing, Fox probably figures it can’t hurt to have a working relationship with the NBA, just in case it hopes to bid on the league’s broadcast rights some time down the road.
As for why the NBA would partner with Fox instead of one of its established partners, the league offered this statement to Variety:
”We have a longstanding relationship with Fox that includes partnerships with 17 of our teams through its family of regional sports networks,” said Kathy Behrens, the NBA’s president of social responsibility and player programs, in an emailed statement. “Fox shares our commitment to the Jr. NBA World Championship and our goals of showcasing a values-driven youth sports event that is global in nature and inclusive of both boys and girls. Fox offered up terrific national platforms across broadcast and cable to highlight the tournament and we’re looking forward to building on this unique event.”
In other words, Fox made the strongest offer.