Sky plans record NBA coverage in UK after signing four-year deal
By Jonathan Rest
Sky, the UK pay-TV network, today snapped up rights to broadcast North American basketball's NBA, replacing rival BT Sport as the exclusive home of the league in the UK and Ireland in a four-year deal.
The 2018-19 season opens on Tuesday evening (Wednesday morning in the UK) with Philadephia 76ers versus Boston Celtics, the first of more than 170 games to be shown live by Sky per year, including four back-to-back games on Christmas Day and the New York Knicks-Washington Wizards clash at the O2 in London on 17 January.
It will also carry extensive live coverage of the NBA Playoffs and the Finals.
Sky becomes the NBA's exclusive broadcast partner and official website operator in the UK and Ireland in a deal that also includes live games and highlights of the Women's NBA starting with the 2019 season that tips off in May.
From 6am (UK) Tuesday, a range of specialised programming featuring archived classic games will begin the build-up to the new season.
Elsa Memmi, the NBA's EMEA vice-president of global distribution, said: "With a record number of weekend primetime games , a season-long schedule of live games and programming, and extensive highlights available online and on mobile, Sky Sports will be the true home of the NBA for fans."
Sky Sports Mix, available to all Sky TV customers at no extra cost, will show one match every Saturday with full-season coverage across Sky Sports Action, Sky Sports Arena, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports News.
Barney Francis, Sky Sports managing director, added: "This is great news for our customers and for NBA fans in the UK and Ireland. We're partnering with a really exciting sport that has a fascinating history and an even more compelling future. With some of the biggest stars in world sport we know the NBA will bring drama and entertainment to our customers week after week, available across our many different platforms."
BT Sport announced at the end of July that it would not be showing the NBA from the 2018-19 season onwards, with Marc Allera, head of BT Consumer, telling the Financial Times that its strategy had matured from having an “emotionally driven start-up mentality” when it launched to a more clinical assessment of the value it derives from each sport.
BT first landed the NBA rights towards the end of 2013, replacing rival Sky and ESPN (the sports broadcaster whose UK and Ireland business was bought by BT) as the rights-holder. The telecoms group subsequently signed a three-year deal for the 2015-16 season onwards.
The loss of NBA rights is part of BT Sport's wider policy of focusing on retention of its core rights to the likes of the Premier League and Uefa Champions League. As well as the NBA, it has given up rights to mixed martial arts’ UFC and soccer’s Serie A, both of which have been picked up by market newcomer Eleven Sports.
The NBA complements Sky's extensive coverage of NFL American football and Major League Soccer.
Major League Baseball has been shown on BT Sport since its launch, while NHL ice hockey is tied to Premier Sports, the UK pay-television channel, until 2021.