Comcast RSNs On Court with NBA In-Market Streaming

Expanding NBC Sports’ drive into the TV Everywhere arena, the programmer’s regional sports networks are live-streaming NBA games in-market.

Six of the Comcast SportsNet regionals that have rights to NBA teams have been quietly streaming simulcasts of the clubs’ games, as well as pre- and post-game programming, to authenticated viewers across computers, desktops, tablets and cellphones since the start of the 2014-15 NBA season. The live-streams include their own sets of ads as NBC Sports is monetizing the new platform.

The regionals – CSN New England, CSN Philadelphia, CSN Mid-Atlantic, CSN Chicago, CSN Bay Area and CSN California – join the SportsNet LA, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as almost all of the 17 Fox Sports-owned regionals in streaming NBA contests to verified viewers within their respective TV markets.

“We have successfully launched TV Everywhere in many of our markets, initially featuring live NBA game coverage of the Celtics, 76ers, Wizards, Bulls, Warriors and Kings,” said Jon Litner, group president of the NBC Sports Group.  “Through a growing list of participating providers, Comcast SportsNet subscribers are gaining access to our award-winning coverage no matter where they are, and on whichever device they choose.”  

CSN Northwest is not engaging in the practice, as Portland Trail Blazers games are streamed on a pay-per-view basis where the RSN doesn't have carriage. CSN Houston, which has been the home of the Houston Rockets, will become Root Sports Southwest.

Currently, the Comcast RSNs have distribution deals for NBA in-market live streaming with their parent company, which is the top provider in the attendant markets, Time Warner Cable, and AT&T U-verse.

The programmer, which is making the streams available to all distributors at no extra charge, said it is working toward inking TVE carriage contracts for NBA local streaming with other providers.

While the streamed contests are value-added at no extra cost for authenticated subscribers, NBC Sports is looking to monetize this nascent platform, building a separate schedule of ads within the simulcasts.  Calling it “a brand new sales initiative,” an NBC Sports spokesman said the company is dedicating personnel to selling the spots and dynamically inserting them within the streams.

At launch this season, the Fox regionals simulcasting NBA games in-market included “slates,” rather than commercials within the streams.

The CSN streaming effort soft-launched in late October with the start of the NBA campaign to make sure the technology was functioning properly. A spokesman for NBC Sports said it is “very pleased with the rollout,” noting there have very few glitches.

The service is now being supported by on-air reads, messaging on the RSNs' websites, and promos during shoulder and news programming, raising awareness and usage.

Users can access the NBA streaming content via NBC Sports or the RSNs' websites, or by downloading the NBC Sports Live Extra app for use on smartphones and tablets. The platform’s geolocator points the user to the appropriate RSN and log-in process.

NBC Sports Live Extra enables authenticated and multiplatform viewing for most of the programmer’s national portfolio, including the Olympics, National Hockey League, Barclays Premier League, Sunday Night Football, Notre Dame football and Triple Crown thoroughbred racing. Golf Channel – and its coverage of the PGA Tour and other circuits – has been live-streamed via Golf Live Extra since April 2013.

The company recently launched its first ad campaign touting the NBC Sports Live Extra service.

The wide-scale rollout of NBA in-market streaming  -- NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a recent interview said that it’s important that the league fans can view the RSN games on multiple devices -- by the Comcast and Fox-owned regionals, as well as TWC’s Lakers networks, and MSG, which is putting the New York Knicks in streaming play come December, may put pressure on Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League to open up in-market TVE for the RSNs that televise their teams' contests.

While New York Yankees games via YES Network, and San Diego Padres action had been made available in the fashion in the past, fans of the Toronto Blue Jays and subscribers to Rogers SportNet were the only ones to have access to in-market live streaming of MLB contests during the 2014 campaign.

The NHL has yet to skate with the practice.