Earlier today, ESPN announced a landmark two-year agreement to broadcast NBL games exclusively across their network.
The original article on ESPN’s website has been taken down, but made waves on social media.
No news of a free-to-air deal was in the ESPN release, but Fox Sports Australia’s Olgun Uluc hinted at an announcement to come in the morning.
Update: A FTA deal has been announced with SBS for this coming NBL season, and includes the upcoming exhibition games in Australia.
The broadcast agreement kicks off on the NBL’s 2019/20 season opening night (October 3rd), when the South East Phoenix make their debut and take on cross town rivals Melbourne United in the first ever “Throwdown”.
ESPN is set to deliver 59 prime time matchups in the 7:30pm, 8:30pm and 9:30pm (AEST) time slots. They will also broadcast the finals series.
“This broadcast agreement with ESPN is a quantum leap forward in the coverage of the NBL and basketball across Australia,” NBL owner and executive chairman Larry Kestelman said.
“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. Partnering with ESPN, the home of the NBA in Australia, brings more global credibility to the NBL as we attract bigger stars to what is now considered one of the best leagues in the world outside of the NBA.”
In an earlier interview with The Pick and Roll, NBL CEO Jeremy Loeliger had outlined his objectives for the coming season, with one of them being an improved television broadcast deal, which has become reality now.
This season is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in NBL history, with future NBA draft hopefuls RJ Hampton, Lamelo Ball and Terry Armstrong joining the ‘Next Stars’ program, along with the addition of NBA draftee Marcos Louzada Silva.
ESPN has been a basketball staple in this country, being a staple broadcast for the NBA, WNBA and college basketball to Australian viewers. Haydn Arndt, ESPN’s General Manager for Australia/NZ, said the NBL would fit perfectly among the network’s existing basketball slate.
“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,” Arndt said.
The television deal is a huge coup for the NBL as it looks to tie down further relations with the NBA and the US market. On the back a successful recruiting year for the NBL’s ‘Next Stars” program, you would hope that this would strengthen the NBL’s ability to tempt NBA draft hopefuls.