David Stern Talks About NBA's In-Arena Experience, NBA TV Following Cable Show

David Stern Talks About NBA's In-Arena Experience, NBA TV Following Cable Show

By John Ourand, Staff Writer


Stern discusses some of the biggest issues the NBA is facing
NBA Commissioner David Stern attended the cable industry's annual convention in Boston this morning and spent much of his time talking about how to improve the in-game experience at the NBA's arenas. Following his appearance on a general session panel, he held an impromptu press conference with media reporters and addressed some of the biggest issues facing the league today.

Q: What can you do as a league to make the in-stadium experience better?
Stern: Our teams have led the way on that. Their video boards, their replays, their music, their dance teams, their imagination with respect to cartoons and animation and the like is really extraordinary. Beyond that, we're striving to make sure that our arenas are able to support our fans going on their smartphones and other digital technology because that is what they are going to demand.

Q: How has the CBA helped the financial position of the league and how many teams are profitable this year compared to last year?
Stern: We haven't harvested the numbers yet, but I think we're going to have about 10 teams losing money this year. And the number is going to go down next year. The year after, every team will have, I think, the opportunity to break even or make some money. We're trending in the right direction. Our revenue sharing doesn't click in fully until the year after next. But it does start to increase starting this year. We're seeing the combination of the leveling of the playing field through the tax system and the like, together with the revenue sharing, we're seeing an important -- for us at least -- future view where it's going to be all about management and not about money.

Q: Are you confident that you will get approvals and see a new building built in San Francisco in the next five years?
Stern: I think I would use the words hopeful and optimistic rather than confident. All of the pieces are in place for moving this to a very successful and, hopefully, swift completion.

Q: Where [does the league] stand in the next round of TV negotiations?
Stern: We've got four years to go. We're very happy with our current arrangements ... We're in no hurry. The trend seems to be a very good one. As long as we continue to grow our digital assets and improve the programming of our network telecasts, which all of our partners are committed to. As long as we have the kinds of management that we see reflected in teams still in our playoffs, the future looks very bright.

Q: Are you concerned about playoff ratings this year?
Stern: Over the last five years, our numbers are up in an extraordinary fashion. The numbers are, to me, astounding because they are up from a time when everyone said, "This is it. You've reached your height. It's all downhill." Well, far from that. I use the phrase of a digital water cooler. There really is such a thing as a digital water cooler. And I think that the conversation there is about sports that drive interest and drive the sense of community that sports creates.

Q: MLB Network just added two playoff games. Will NBA TV increase its number?
Stern: We've been doing six games for a number of years. That new development is new for Major League Baseball Network, but not for NBA TV.

Q: Any thought of increasing that?
Stern: No. Absolutely not. Our commitment is to our network partners when they get the games that they choose.

Q: NBA TV is in 60 million homes.
Stern: 59,458,072. But who's counting?

Q: What's the growth potential?
Stern: We're not fully distributed. We have deals with all of the major MSOs, save Charter. We're working on that. We're on digital basic. As each of those systems become more fully digitized, that will have a creep in a positive direction. And as those that we are on acquire smaller systems, our contracts will provide for the phasing in of additional carriage. We do have some growth. I don't think it will be dramatic. But it will be an upward fashion.

Q: Are you looking to make NBA League Pass available on Play Station and Xbox?
Stern: We're talking about it. Those have to be worked out with respect to our network partners for network games and NBA TV and League Pass. But clearly, we like ubiquity. We think it helps. It's a virtuous cycle that we think helps promote our game and draws in viewership.