The NBA has always been one of the more progressive sports leagues out there, unlike the NFL, which tries to shoot itself in the foot at every opportunity.
In another first for the Association, it was announced today that fans can now purchase just the fourth quarter of a game this season.
ESPN’s Darren Rovell wrote a post on the topic:
Fans will be able to purchase the remainder of any out-of-market game on League Pass once the buzzer sounds to end the third quarter. The price initially will be $1.99 whether the fan buys it at the start of the quarter or to watch the last 30 seconds.
“It’s a big moment, but it’s also a small first step,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN on Thursday. “There are limitations in the technology right now, but we’re working as quickly as possible so that, at some point in the near future, fans can choose to buy any part of any game.”
By December, the league plans to give fans the option of buying viewing rights by the start of each quarter for a yet-to-be-disclosed price.
My first thought was, “hmm, okay, that’s pretty cool, something different and unique.”
My second thought was, “hmm, okay, so you’re basically just telling us that the first three quarters don’t matter.”
But I think we already knew that, didn’t we? The game really doesn’t start until the fourth quarter. It’s just weird to get that admission from the league in an indirect way.
One of the wrinkles here is that this kind of product makes a LOT of sense from a gambling perspective, and I think that’s one of two strategies being pursued by the league.
Silver mentions this later in the same article:
Not only will fans want to potentially purchase pieces of games; so too might gamblers, Silver acknowledged. For example, a bettor who has money on the first half of a game may only be interested in watching that span.
While prices will initially be uniform across all games based on when a game is purchased, Silver said the league hasn’t ruled out dynamically pricing games based on the matchup “just like our teams do with their tickets.”
Translation: you’re paying more to watch the Warriors play the Celtics. The irony is that most Warriors games are over by the third quarter, so maybe you pay your two dollars to see them go on a 35-14 run and ice the contest early.
The second strategy, I believe, is tailoring purchase options towards micro-payments for younger cord-cutters. For a lot of folks, this might make more sense than paying $200 for an entire season of games on NBA League Pass. Even if you just want Sixers games on League Pass, you’re still paying $120 for the year or $18 per month.
Millennials are familiar with micro payments, specifically in-app purchases from downloaded games and whatnot. Long gone are the days where you go to Electronics Boutique at the Coventry Mall and buy a video game for $59.99, then play it for a year and put it away. Now you download a free game like League of Legends and spend a few bucks here and there buying character skins and gift boxes and shit like that instead. You might be a Fortnite player who spends money on DLC (downloadable content) instead, which provides a steady stream of revenue via open-ended future development.
Similarly, instead of going to the record store and buying a CD for $12.99, you’re just snagging singles off iTunes for a dollar apiece. These are different models entirely, and they work. I think the NBA is being smart in this regard, because younger people are already making purchases with this “micro” mindset. Gen X and Baby Boomers don’t necessarily spend money in the same way, and they’re more likely to sit there and watch a full baseball or basketball game anyway while Millennials don’t have the same interest in spending 3+ hours consuming a single sporting contest.
My biggest gripe with League Pass is the 36 hour blackout period that bars replay access due to local providers holding those short term rights. For example, if I see a clip from a game that I want to edit and put in a Crossing Broad article, I have to pull it from the NBA stats page or the NBC Sports Philadelphia feed. I can’t get into League Pass for replay purposes because of the blackout rules. NFL Game Pass is excellent in this regard because the condensed game is uploaded just a few hours after the final whistle. Then they add the all-22 “coaches film” midway through the week, which gives us the wide camera angle and a new batch of video to sift through.
So I don’t know, I can only speak for myself. I have FIOS and I watch the games on cable or stream on my computer if my wife is watching Total Divas or something like that. Adding micro-payment options is interesting for the NBA but might also put a strain on local broadcasting relationships.
Anyway, if you’re a cord-cutter or casual NBA fan, does paying $1.99 for the fourth quarter of a game do anything for you?