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NBA signs two TV deals to air games in India

By Ben Klayman

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Basketball Association signed multiyear deals with media company Taj Television and a company majority-owned by Sony Corp to broadcast games in India, the U.S. sports league said on Thursday.

Financial terms of the deals with Taj Television and Multi Screen Media Private Ltd were not disclosed, but they bring broadcasts back to a growing market where NBA games were previously aired by ESPN Star Sports, whose deal expired after last season.

"Their local expertise will help connect the NBA to its growing fan base in India," Heidi Ueberroth, NBA international chief, said in a statement about the two new partners.

Indian fans will be able to watch a record number of live games as a result of the deals, which are part of the NBA's expansion in a country with 1.2 billion people and a fast-growing middle class.

The sport has more than 4 million active participants in India, according to the NBA, which cited data from the Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

The NBA earlier this year launched a recreational league in India with conglomerate Mahindra Group, and plans to open an office there early next year.

NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver told Reuters in March that basketball participation and interest in India is growing, and there might be an opportunity to create a league sooner rather than later.

Last December, the NBA launched its first-ever online and mobile sites designed for fans in India.

In June, sports and entertainment agency IMG and Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries announced a 30-year deal with BFI granting their venture commercial rights to basketball in India, including franchising rights.

Under the NBA deal, Taj Television will broadcast two live games per week on its Ten Sports channel, as well as the all-star game and playoffs, including the finals.

Taj Television also will locally produce NBA-dedicated highlight recaps, and air features on NBA grass-roots events in India and an NBA-themed weekly reality program.

MSM, majority-owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, will televise two live games per week on its English-language movie channel PIX, as well as some playoffs and a highlights show. It also will air a weekly show that condenses a game into 30 minutes.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman, editing by Matthew Lewis)