Why Does NBA's Broadband Product Cost So Much?

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I browsing around on the NBA’s Web site yesterday and noticed an ad for their League Pass Broadband service, which allows fans to watch out-of-market games on their computers. I’ve tried this servce, and it’s really fantastic for fans who live outside the city of their favorite team. But I was a bit stunned to see the price: five payments of $29.99, or about $150 for the season.

I was surprised by the price, because it’s more than $40 more than MLB.TV Premium, baseball’s out of market broadband package, which sold for $109 this past season.

One would assume that the NBA’s package would cost less, since there are half as many games in a season. But that’s not the case. I contacted the NBA to inquire about the price disparity, and received a prompt reply from a league spokesman.

“We are unique from MLB, in the fact that our NBA LEAGUE PASS product is integrated through both the television and Internet. With this integration, NBA LEAGUE PASS Broadband is also available to fans at no additional cost with their subscription to the NBA LEAGUE PASS TV product.

Additionally, along with the DVR features, [the] option to view multiple games at once, and access to live radio broadcasts (both home and away feeds) for every game,  we have tapped into our digital archive - to provide our fans with access to a complete archive of the full season, to view any game whenever they choose.

This year, we have also unveiled a special broadband package option, NBA LEAGUE PASS Broadband “Choice” which provides fans with access to live games of seven out-of-market teams of their choice, and includes all
features of NBA LEAGUE PASS Broadband.  This option is available for $99.95 for the season.”

This explanation isn’t entirely satisfying. While it’s true that the NBA has integrated the NBA League Pass broadband and TV packages, the $150 price is for the broadband package by itself. Fans who want the TV and broadband together must pay $189.

Also, while he ticks off some nice features that NBA League Pass Broadband offers, it does not appear that the service has anything that MLB.TV Premium doesn’t.

  • DVR Features? MLB.TV Premium has them.
  • Multiple games at once? MLB.TV allowed you to watch four games at once. The NBA’s service only allows three.
  • Live radio? Home and away radio broadcasts are included with MLB.TV Premium subscription.
  • Game archive? MLB.TV Premium offers archives of all the season’s games, plus condensed games.

To be fair, the new NBA League Pass “Choice” is a cheaper option for fans who don’t need to see every team, coming it at $99, or $10 less than MLB.TV Premium. But it’s still more expensive than the MLB.TV basic service, which went for $79.95 this past season and offers all out-of-market games without any bells and whistles.

It’s worth noting that baseball lowered the price of MLB.TV this past season by $10, so we should not be surprised if the price goes back up in the spring.

To be clear, both broadband services work quite well and have been generally well-received by fans. But for now, the NBA’s price point is considerably higher than baseball’s without a valid explanation.

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