Last season, the NBA D-League landed two groundbreaking deals regarding it's television and global streaming outlets. The CBS Sports Network struck a deal with the NBADL before the start of the season, which involved 10 regular season games, two games from the NBADL Showcase, as well as NBADL playoff games and exclusive coverage of the NBA D-League Finals.
The NBA D-League also launched the NBA D-League YouTube Channel, as apart of a deal that the league and YouTube announced before the 2012-2013 season. As a result of the partnership, the NBADL featured the most live games on YouTube by a major professional sports league.
As the NBADL heads into it's 13th season, and carries an enormous amount of momentum, which network, or internet platform, will align itself with the rapidly growing league?
RidiculousUpside.com reached out to the CBS Sports Network, and received a brief statement saying "right now we have nothing to announce." The network kicked off it's coverage last season in Reno at the NBA D-League Showcase. Coverage consisted of two games, as well as exclusive coverage of the 3-point Shootout, and Slam Dunk Contest. Jason Knapp and Alaa Abdelnaby announced the games. Overall, CBS Sports delivered a slick, and professional package with it's NBADL production, and would be a great fit if the network decides to carry NBADL action once again.
RidiculousUpside.com also spoke to a league source, and received word that "no broadcast information for next season is available yet." Both answers from CBS Sports, and the NBA D-League shouldn't come as a surprise, the league didn't announce it's CBS Sports Network and YouTube deals until November of last season.
However, with the formation of Fox Sports 1, and the growing competition between various sports networks (ESPN, CBS Sports Network, NBC Sports), a league on the rise such as the NBA D-League, could become a sought after addition for one of these aspiring networks, and for good reason.
Over the years, the NBA Development League has utilized various media outlets including VERSUS, NBA D-League Futurecast, and NBATV to broadcast it's games. In terms of overall visibility, the league's deal with YouTube allowed international access for all 415 games, and attendance once again reached the one million plateau (1,123,124) for a fourth consecutive season.
As the league broadens itself, establishing relationships with networks such as CBS Sports will only help. The professionalism and quality that such a network (or another network with similar capabilities) can provide, will only enhance the viewing experience for fans.
While more teams create one-to-one relationships, and player assignments continue to rise, hardcore NBA fans will be drawn to the easy access of following draft picks, or players needing additional development per their favorite team's request. Similar to the overall live experience of the NBA D-League, the league has shown a commitment to matching their up close, and personal feel for fans by allowing convenient broadcasting access.
According to the NBA D-League, an all-time high 58 NBA prospects spent time developing in the league last season, including 11 players who were first round selections in 2012. Additionally, 30 percent of NBA players have NBADL experience, with a record 132 players on NBA rosters at the end of the season. Also, 76 NBADL alumni played in the 2013 NBA Playoffs, and some went on to have a huge impact for their respective team i.e. Danny Green.
There is an abundance of coaches with NBA D-League experience making their way to NBA benches as well, it is another result of the expanding connectivity that the NBADL and NBA currently enjoy. Franchises and organizations can implement their philosophies throughout their entire umbrella, including their NBADL affiliate. Reigning NBADL champions Rio Grande Valley, and the Houston Rockets, are a prime example of a successful partnership in this regard, and it appears more teams will follow suit.
If the NBADL creates a television, and multimedia viewing experience similar to what it has done in the past, fans will become the ultimate beneficiaries. The NBA D-League is looking to associate itself with big time companies and corporations, and it will need to continue doing so in order to generate the proper funds, and level of interest to take the league to the next level. If the availability to watch games remains flexible for fans, they will surely be on board to continue with their viewership moving forward.
The difficulty lies in creating an engaging product for fans outside of the extremely dedicated NBA fans. Let's be honest, following an NBA team's minor league moves can be taxing, and also confusing. This is also a challenge for the business operations staffs across the league, how do you present/promote the NBADL as a product to fans? The one-to-one setup is key regarding this issue. One way NBADL single affiliate teams are connecting, is by hosting exhibition games with their NBA parent teams. Hosting a preseason game is a tremendous way to expose local NBADL fans to fringe players of their NBA parent team, and establish more of a connection.
For example, the Idaho Stampede will host the Utah Jazz in an exhibition game mid-October. Last season, the Idaho Stampede witnessed a handful of Portland's training camp, and preseason roster players. Will Barton, Joel Freeland, Victor Claver, Nolan Smith, Justin Holiday, and Coby Karl, all laced up their kicks for the Stampede at some point last season. Holiday and Karl became fixtures on the Stampede's roster, and Holiday earned an NBA Call-Up after his stellar season in Idaho.
It is this sort of player association that will generate interest about the NBA D-League for basketball fans. For television companies, and multimedia outlets to remain interested in partnering with the NBADL, fan support will have to be present. In order to do so, there has to be a vested interested from the sports networks to develop a legitimate broadcast, that will highlight the ever-growing talent found in the NBA D-League.
With the overall rise in NBA viewership for television networks, perhaps a network will be willing to firmly attach itself to the NBA D-League, and seize the opportunity to draw in a loyal, and willing NBADL fan base, but also expand upon it as well.