NBA Philippine TV broadcast still hanging in the balance amidst interest from multiple networks

MORE than two weeks since the new NBA season opened, games of the world’s most popular basketball event have yet to be shown on free TV for the basketball-crazy Filipinos.

Television rights to bring the NBA games remain hanging in the balance as local broadcasting networks in the Philippines have  difficulty coming to terms with NBA Philippines.

In a recent media briefing, NBA Philippines Managing Director Carlo Singson said that the league is in “discussion with multiple groups” to bring back the world’s premier basketball association to the local cable and free broadcast. So far, this is being pursued jointly by TV5 and ABS-CBN.

FOX Sports Philippines reported earlier that the price being offered for the NBA Philippine television rights is too high, according to Jane Basas, president and chief executive officer of TV5.

“The price for the TV rights which was offered to us is something we can not even recover,” said Ms. Basas. “They had to lower it a bit, but we came up with our offer. Now the ball is in the hands of the NBA. Hopefully, they will get back to us.”

In the absence of free television broadcast of the NBA games, live streaming of selected matches were made.

Singson disclosed in an interview with BusinessWorld that live streaming of the games is a good idea considering the nature of Filipinos, who are actively engaged in social media.

“Filipinos are one of the more engaged with the league on social media globally — 17 million Filipinos following the NBA across its social media platforms.”

In the same report, Singson also took time to discuss NBA League Pass, the premium subscription service of the NBA, which he said has grown by leaps and bounds in the Philippines and touted it as great source for fans to have their steady fix of the games. The service, he added, has experienced double-digit growth in the country, second only to Australia in the Asia-Pacific region as far NBA League Pass subscriptions.

But Ms. Basas reiterated that free television is something Filipino NBA fans truly deserve.

“There’s nothing like free TV,” added Ms. Basas. “Not everyone has a data or internet connection to watch the games via FB live neither is everyone can afford to subscribe on NBA League Pass.”

NBA has been in the Philippines for 18 years through a long-standing partnership with SOLAR Entertainment which created NBA channels such as BTV (Basketball TV) and NBA Premium TV. To help expend the market reach and defray the fees imposed on Solar by NBA, it approached ABS-CBN/Studio 23 in 2013 to air the remainder of the season on Free TV broadcast.

In 2015, Solar partnered with ABS-CBN to acquire rights for Seasons 2015-2019. ABS-CBN handled Free TV rights and Solar handled Pay TV syndication. ABS-CBN and Sky Cable successfully built the popularity of the NBA in the Philippines, resulting in the highest ratings and audience reach plus the highest engagement and views. In spite of the financial losses, ABS-CBN continued to provide the NBA to the Filipino audience.

But in 2019, concerns over the unsustainable fees being charged by NBA for the renewal resulted in pressure on Solar and ABS-CBN’s Sky Cable. When the 2019 contract ended, SOLAR did not renew the NBA contract and BTV and NBA Premium ceases operations. Broadcast of NBA stopped.

With Solar out of the picture, ABS-CBN/Sky Cable and Cignal/TV5 announced they will jointly negotiate for NBA rights for the new NBA seasons 2020-2025, but they have to ask NBA Philippines to lower the price of the broadcasting rights.

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