With the new season only a few weeks away, working out how and where to watch games online is still way too much work. With LiveBasketball.TV far from drowning in content, Emmet Ryan on how giving the platform a reason to care more is in FIBA’s interests
You may not have heard of Perform Group but, if you’re a visitor to this site, you’re almost certainly familiar with at least one of its properties. LiveBasketball.tv is the lesser sibling of basketball streaming services. It has quite a bit of content, actually the total amount is great as 1,500 games in a season sounds like a great deal. The issue however, in a word, is bunching. The product as it stands simply doesn’t work as a year round offering or even season long by traditional definitions.
LiveBasketball is FIBA’s core home for the Basketball Champions League and international hoops. One of those lasts most of the season but is midweek only. The other is exceptionally seasonal. Those two properties aside, all users get for their subscription is access to Liga Sudamericana and the British Basketball League. It’s not exactly an overload of top tier content for €6.99 a month.
With a limited portfolio, the role of LiveBasketball within the Perform Group is borderline irrelevant. This is the company that owns Goal.com, one of the most popular sports websites on the planet, and the burgeoning digital platform DAZN with a breadth of top end soccer and boxing rights, along with a few other useful properties that deliver consistent content to the end user.
In order for LiveBasketball to be relevant, it needs to be an awful lot bigger in terms of the total package. This isn’t exactly the first time this site has lamented the challenges in gaining access to different leagues online.
For some context, here’s some of what I said about the challenge last time around:
A combination of emigrants and hardcore hoops fans want to watch a lot of basketball. They go to streaming sites to get their fix because right now it’s pretty much the only choice they have.
In the near five years since that post, literally in the first month of my tenure running this site, things have gone backwards for the LiveBasketball product and it’s hard to lay the blame at the feet of Perform. The civil war between FIBA and Euroleague naturally saw those properties split and Euroleague now has its own web service for its games along with Eurocup. Adding the latter was a massive content win for Euroleague as it adds an extra day to the core part of the week it delivers content, and 12 more games a week in the regular season phase of Eurocup.
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It’s still not a whopper of an offering but it’s all of the rights possible for Euroleague being put out together. FIBA has an edge here that Euroleague couldn’t hope for, it may not own all that much in the terms of extra properties but it is on tremendous terms with leagues and governing bodies across the continent, and globe, to boost its total offering.
There are many national leagues out there and on their own their appeal internationally is limited. Add them up and keep adding to them and the collective value of these properties gets awfully interesting in a hurry. Some will be nothing short of a nightmare to get on board despite the good relations, like ACB in Spain, which does pretty well in international rights sales although still nothing to be roaring from the rooftops about. Those emigrant viewers and assorted basketball nerds worldwide would likely care far more about a package that included France’s Pro A (which has a healthy domestic rights contract), Italy’s Serie A, Turkey’s BSL, Greece’s A1 Ethniki, and Germany’s Bundesliga all being in one bundle. I’d naturally include Lithuania’s LKL but…that’s already free. Same goes for the VTB United League and a smattering of others. Similarly, getting the ABA Liga on board would be, at best, a challenge given the relationship FIBA has with it but further afield the PBA in Philippines, NBL in Australia, and China’s CBA all add to the bundle.
Like Netflix, it can learn more about the customers it deals with on a global level to build new marketing opportunities
It’s the collective value of the product that holds appeal. Individually the ceiling for these leagues in terms of the bulk of global broadcast rights is painfully low. The collective platform under the FIBA banner is a means to build off each other’s value while also boosting the value of FIBA’s core products, namely international hoops and the BCL.
FIBA has the potential to develop the Netflix of basketball in every sense. Like Netflix, it can tailor based on geographic requirements. Like Netflix, it can put together a whopper of a library and use this to build new content. Like Netflix, it can learn more about the customers it deals with on a global level to build new marketing opportunities. Crucially, like Netflix, it can build a platform that doesn’t live and die by having the top quality product in its market (think Game of Thrones never going there) but enough okay to very good ones (think Stranger Things, Mindhunter, Narcos) to keep its user base strong while facing alternative providers in the market (Hulu, Amazon), while also using partner content to grow its overall offering (so Serie A and the CBA are basically RuPaul’s Drag Race and BBC comedies).
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That, my friends, is what we call an opportunity and it’s one where FIBA’s got options. It can stick with Perform which has got a pretty impressive upside, not least with the experience of former ESPN boss John Skipper leading its US charge, but it needs to make Perform want to work with it. What FIBA has on the table for Perform as a package is never going to get the love it needs. Alternatively it could seek to set up its own platform, the increasing use of YouTube for live streams in recent years has hardly gone unnoticed, but working with a partner to some degree just makes too much sense.
More than ever, the potential is out there for FIBA to deliver on its fundamental goal, to serve its member bodies, in a way like it as never before. FIBA can make a product that is really tough to match in sports as we know it. UFC has Fight Pass, WWE (it’s real to me) has its Network but neither could come remotely close to the level of live fresh content that FIBA could build with its members.
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