Viacom18, one of India’s leading entertainment networks, has acquired rights in the country to North American basketball’s NBA for three seasons.
The broadcaster will have exclusive linear television and streaming rights to show games in India, beginning with the remainder of this season through to the end of the 2023-24 campaign.
Viacom18 will air live weekly regular season games, the NBA All-Star game, end-of-season play-in tournament, playoffs and the NBA Finals.
It will also show daily highlights and create original NBA-themed programming that will run across several channels on its network.
Indian broadcasting giant Sony Pictures Network was the NBA rights-holder in the country since 2012 but opted not to renew its deal after the 2019-20 campaign.
The league did not have an Indian broadcast partner for live games in the 2020-21 regular season but did sign a short-term deal with Star Sports last season to air the playoffs and NBA Finals.
The NBA also signed a highlights deal in India with free-to-air state broadcaster Prasar Bharati earlier that year.
Anil Jayaraj, Viacom18 chief executive of sports, said: “While sports are the biggest whitespace that we are entering, to build a truly inclusive and differentiated proposition, we need to look at diverse sporting events from across the globe.
“Basketball is a sport that is increasingly gaining attention and affinity in India. Through this partnership with the NBA, not only do we want to make basketball mainstream, but also build its lifestyle appeal among sports fans.”
India is a strategic growth market for the NBA and the league staged its first-ever games in the country in 2019, with two pre-season contests in Mumbai.
Viacom18, a joint venture between US media giant Viacom and the Mumbai-based Network 18 Group, is seeking to build out its wider sports portfolio after mainly focusing on soccer properties over the past year.
It recently made its biggest acquisition by landing domestic rights to soccer’s prestigious Fifa World Cup in 2022. This added to previous deals to show Spain’s LaLiga, France's Ligue 1 and Italy’s Serie A.
The network additionally secured media rights to cricket’s Abu Dhabi T10 in the Indian subcontinent, as well as tennis' ATP Masters.
Viacom18 is planning to launch several new sports channels next year.
With that in mind, the network has hired Mallika Petkar as its new senior vice-president of sports strategy.
She joins Viacom18 from Hotstar, the digital streaming platform of Star India, one of the country's foremost broadcasting networks, where she spent almost three years.
Petkar worked at Star India for more than a decade in various roles primarily in sports and OTT domains.
She is the latest appointment by Viacom18 as it bolsters its management team on the sports side. It recently hired Amit Kumar Sinha as vice-president and head of pricing and revenue strategy for its sports vertical as well as Jayaraj, who was appointed in September from Star Sports.
In October, Jyoti Deshpande was also installed as its new chief executive.
Meanwhile, the NBA has teamed up with Play9, the Brazilian digital content firm, for the strategic management of the NBA Brazil channel.
Through the partnership, the league and the agency will seek to increase the reach and relevance of the channel on YouTube, which is claimed to have surpassed 600,000 subscribers and more than 47 million total views.
Play9 will be responsible for strategic content management, collaborating with ideas on new formats, best practices on YouTube, influencer mapping, monitoring of consumption data, management of the channel community, among other initiatives.