In the face of growing resistance to pay-per-view among professional team sports, the National Basketball Association's San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers will offer home telecasts of their playoff games via PPV.
The Blazers last week kicked off the team's nearly two decades-long carriage of both regular-season and playoff games with its first round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Meanwhile, for the eighth consecutive season, the Spurs will distribute home playoff games not picked up by NBC on a PPV basis to Time Warner Cable of San Antonio subscribers, beginning with the team's series against the Phoenix Suns.
After the mid-1990s saw several teams turn to PPV for additional revenue, the Blazers and Spurs remain the only clubs to still offer either playoff or regular-season games via PPV.
Teams such as the Suns, Houston Rockets and Seattle SuperSonics have nixed PPV over the past three years for the more lucrative and guaranteed revenue from regional sports networks.
A source close to the Blazers said the team continues to review its standing PPV-distribution policy on a year-to-year basis. Fox Sports Northwest has made overtures to the team in the past about distributing its games through the regional sports network.
The Spurs have a regular-season output deal with Fox Sports Net Southwest, but Fox Sports Net senior vice president and Southwest region general manager Jon Heidtke decided to offer the games via PPV due to its crowded programming lineup.
"Due to the number of Major League Baseball and NHL [National Hockey League] events Fox Sports Net televises, it's difficult for us to rearrange our programming schedule to accommodate Spurs playoff games on such short notice," Heidtke said.
"These games are also being carried on national cable networks outside of the NBA-rule 35-mile radius," he added. "Duplicating them on Fox Sports Net would dilute the value of the telecasts to our advertisers and to viewers in the outer market."
Heidtke also said that unlike regional sports telecasts of Spurs games, the PPV telecasts-which will retail for $24.95-won't necessarily cannibalize the team's live-gate performance.
"The Spurs play in a large arena, so there's a sellout issue that the team is concerned with," he said. "To make sure the attendance is there, PPV is preferable."
Both the teams and the operators within each team's respective market are hoping that the franchises advance well beyond the first round to be able to generate significant incremental revenue for the games.
With NBC picking up several of each team's first-round games-thereby blacking out any regional distribution-each team would be only be able to offer a maximum of two games in the first round.
"The performance of the games also has a lot to do with the matchups," Heidtke said. "If the Spurs are able to get to the [Los Angeles] Lakers in the second round, the rivalry is there to generate strong buy-rates."
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