SBS and ESPN to air NBL as Nine walks away from deal

Australian Basketball has a new home with the National Basketball League signing a new contract for the broadcast rights of its sport which will see ESPN replace Fox Sports, and SBS take Nine’s place as the FTA broadcaster, despite Nine only being 12 months into a three-year contract.

ESPN already has the NBA, WNBA and College Basketball rights in Australia, and will now also televise 59 primetime NBL games thanks to a two-year agreement which will commence on October 3.

The SBS deal, which also runs for two years, will enable basketball fans to access the entire 2019-20 Hungry Jack’s NBL season for free, with 67 games to air on SBS Viceland and all 126 games airing live and free on SBS On Demand. The agreement increases free-to-air coverage by 86% on the 2018-19 season.

Despite reports that SBS had been working on a pitch for the US’ NBA coverage, Mumbrella understands the broadcaster’s full focus has been on the NBL, with sources inside the FTA network saying a team had been established months ago to work on delivering the best outcomes for Australian basketball fans.

In addition to the NBL coverage, SBS will also be offering the pre-FIBA World Cup International Basketball Series exclusively on both SBS Viceland and SBS On Demand. The games, which are delivered by TEG Live and Basketball Australia, will feature the Australian Boomers, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.

“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, offering more free coverage than ever before, and in HD,” said SBS managing director, James Taylor.

“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.”

The deal with SBS comes just 12 months after Nine signed a three-year deal with the NBL for broadcast rights on a revenue sharing model. At the time, Nine’s director of sport Tom Malone said it was an ‘innovation in sports rights’.

Now the network is saying that with the end of the NBL’s agreement with Fox Sports, it felt the NBL would be better served by another broadcaster.

“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,” said Malone.

“The second half of 2019 is action packed on Wide World of Sports with all of the biggest sporting moments happening on Nine. The Netball World Cup, Women’s Ashes, Men’s Ashes, the NRL Grand Final, Fed Cup Final featuring Ash Barty, the President’s Cup Golf with Tiger Woods and the Summer of Tennis with the new ATP World Team Cup and Australian Open are all exclusive to Nine.”

The SBS 2019-2020 NBL broadcast schedule runs from October 3, 2019 to March 2020 with specific broadcast details to be announced within the next two months.

The two-year deal with ESPN will see the channel broadcast the 7:30pm, 8:30pm and 9:30pm [AEST] games exclusively live to the big screen as well as the semi-finals and finals series across channels ESPN, ESPN2 and WatchESPN.

“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,” said Haydn Arndt, ESPN’s general manager for Australia/NZ.

“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.”


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