U.K. Telecom, Pay TV Giant BT Acquires NBA TV Rights

Joakim Noah Chicago Bulls - P 2013
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Joakim Noah Chicago Bulls - P 2013

The exclusive multi-year deal will bring British and Irish basketball fans live matches via the BT Sport networks, which are competing with BSkyB.

LONDON – U.K. telecom giant BT, which has been competing aggressively with British pay TV giant BSkyB for sports rights on Thursday, said it has acquired TV rights to NBA games in an exclusive multi-year deal.

There was no U.K. TV deal for the NBA before the BT Sport deal.

BT Sport, the sports networks of the firm, previously snapped up high-profile rights to soccer, rugby and tennis matches, among other things.

No financial details of the exclusive deal that will bring NBA games to basketball fans in the U.K. and Ireland, were disclosed.

BT Sport coverage will include live TV broadcasts of up to seven games per week, plus highlights, magazine shows and free, streamed games on BTSport.com.

British sports fans will be able to watch multiplatform coverage of the NBA and its stars, including LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony and the likes of the L.A. Lakers, Miami Heat, and New York Knicks.

The multi-year agreement between BT Sport and the world’s premier men's professional basketball league tips off on Sunday, Dec. 1, as the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers, featuring Paul George and Roy Hibbert, take on the L.A. Clippers, featuring Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Coverage will include weekly games on Sundays in primetime. Fans will also be able to access selected games streamed live and for free on the BTSport website and BT Sport app. A full schedule of games will be confirmed "in due course," BT Sport said.

The new agreement will see up to 200 games throughout the season, appearing across BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and the U.K. version of ESPN, which BT acquired earlier this year. There will be up to seven live games per week during the regular season and the first and second rounds of the playoffs, as well as every game of the Conference Finals, culminating with the NBA Finals in June.

As part of the partnership, fans will be able to watch Britain-born player Luol Deng and the Chicago Bulls take on the Brooklyn Nets as one of five scheduled games on BT Sport on Christmas Day, making BT Sport one of the few places to go for live televised sports on Christmas Day.

The Nets will face off against the Atlanta Hawks at The O2 arena in the British capital on Jan. 16 as part of NBA Global Games 2014. The game -- which sold out in record time -- will be live on BT Sport.

BT Sport chief Simon Green described the NBA as "simply the best basketball in the world. It is fast moving, high scoring and includes some the world’s most recognizable global sporting icons."

Dan Markham, NBA vp media distribution and emerging markets, said: "This is a very exciting step for the NBA and basketball fans in the U.K. and Ireland. With BT Sports’ first-rate presentation and formidable portfolio of premium sports content, fans can now look forward to more NBA action than ever before in the U.K. and Ireland, including selected free streamed games."

Also included in the partnership will be several magazine shows, including NBA Action, which combines weekly highlights and news, NBA Inside Stuff, which will provide fans with insight into the lives of NBA stars both on and off the court, and NBA Tonight, an overview of the NBA through interviews and analysis.

BT Sport is currently going head-to-head with BSkyB, in which Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake, in snapping up sports rights in order to attract subscribers to its broadband services.