Exclusive: NBA offers live games on smartphones abroad

By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (BestGrowthStock) – International fans of the NBA now can watch the Pacers and Pistons in Paris, the Bulls and Boston in Botswana or the Kings and Clippers in Katmandu on their smartphones and wireless devices.

The National Basketball Association is offering overseas fans the ability to watch live games on their Apple (AAPL.O: ) iPhone and iPod touch or Android-enabled mobile devices, and will launch a marketing push behind the new service on Monday.

Overseas users of the iPad also will have access to NBA League Pass International, the full-season live-game online subscription service available in more than 200 countries in the next few weeks. The idea behind the mobile service, which was introduced in the United States in November 2009, is to make the NBA more easily available for its fans anywhere.

“What we’re trying to do is reach our fans wherever they are in the manner that’s most convenient for them,” Mark Barak, the NBA’s vice president of international development and digital, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“Overseas fans don’t have the benefit of having all of the games in the same time zone and the selection of games that we have here in the U.S.,” he added. “The League Pass mobile (service) will expand the content we can offer our fans internationally whenever they want it and on any device.”

Global sales of mobile devices using the Android and Apple operating systems totaled about 34 million units in the third quarter, according to technology research firm Gartner.

Many analysts consider basketball the second most popular sport globally after soccer and the NBA said more than half of the visitors to the NBA.com website are from outside North America. Opening night rosters for the NBA, which will play its first regular-season game in Europe in London in March, included a record 84 players from 38 countries.

Almost 10 percent of the U.S. sports league’s revenue of $4.3 billion comes from international markets.

The league has opened offices in Africa and Russia in the past year, raising the total to 16 markets, with plans to add India soon. It launched a dedicated Japanese NBA website in 1999 and has since added 12 other versions, including ones in Spanish, Chinese, German, French, Brazilian, Italian, Indian and Arabic.

The NBA introduced the League Pass service, allowing fans to watch live games online, at the start of the 2008-2009 season in 19 countries, and expanded that reach to 100 countries by the playoffs. Last year, the number of countries more than doubled.

Fans who want to use the mobile package either buy the premium League Pass service for $150 or just get the mobile version for $45. In either case, they must also buy the Game Time application, which costs $12.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman. Editing by Robert MacMillan)

Exclusive: NBA offers live games on smartphones abroad