NBA, Turner to hoop it up

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NEW YORK -- NBA and Turner Sports Thursday are expected to announce a deal for Turner to manage the league's digital properties, including the 24-hour cable channel NBA TV.

The NBA would still own the properties but hand over the day-to-day operations to Turner Sports, which has been a long-term TV rights partner with the league. Turner and the NBA will announce the agreement during a news conference with NBA commissioner David Stern and Turner Sports president David Levy.

The NBA has been marketing the channel to outside companies. Unlike the upcoming MLB Channel and to a certain extent the NFL Network, NBA TV has had a difficult time breaking out of the digital sports tier. The network, which launched online in 1999 and became a full-fledged cable channel in 2003, has about 12 million subscribers. This is despite the fact that NBA TV carries about 90 regular-season games as well as WNBA matches and other original programming from its studios in Secaucus, N.J.

Turner would be a natural choice to manage the channel. Not only has it been a NBA television partner for 20 years but it also runs such digital properties as NASCAR.com and PGAtour.com. During the summer, it signed an eight-year deal with the NBA that gave it TV and digital media rights.
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