NBA Wins Battle Over NBAPlus.com Cybersquatting; Is Streaming Service Next for League?
The NBA has offered NBA League Pass, a streaming and linear product for out-of-market games, in varying forms since 1995. This past season, League Pass saw a 19.65% increase in unique users over the previous year, as well as an 18.4% jump in hours watched.
The league does not, however, have a product called “NBA Plus,” at least not yet. Despite that fact, that name was the focal point of a recent copyright dispute between the league and a bogus website based in China.
According to a Sportico report, the NBA recently won an arbitration battle in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) over the domain name nbaplus.com, which was controlled by “a person residing in China.” Arbitrator Karen Fong ruled that the domain was confusingly similar to the NBA’s trademarks.
The NBAPlus.com domain, which was never directed to an active website, had been registered with Alibaba Cloud Computing, which is bound by WIPO’s rules. While not outright stated in the ruling, the implication is that “NBAPlus” could be viewed as a place to stream NBA games, since so many streaming services, like Disney+ and Apple TV+ have “Plus” in their names. The NFL is also planning to launch its own streaming service called NFL+ this fall.
The NBA’s current streaming availability is spread out among multiple services. NBA TV offers some games and related shows, and is available as a bundle with League Pass. The NBA games on ESPN and TNT are available to subscribers of Live TV Streaming services, while local broadcasts are subject to teams’ individual deals, while over one dozen NBA teams will have their games available on Bally Sports+ this fall.
The league is due for new TV deals after the 2024-25 season, and a recent CNBC report stated that the league is eying a $75 billion haul, which would triple the current numbers.
Not only is the NFL launching its own streaming service before the 2022 season, but on Friday, the league’s commissioner Roger Goodell said that he believes that the NFL’s out-of-market package, NFL Sunday Ticket, will be available through a streaming service come 2023.
For nearly two decades, Major League Baseball has been a pioneer in streaming with MLB.TV, and last month, Major League Soccer announced a 10-year deal with Apple to broadcast all MLS games via a dedicated streaming service. This plan has been considered by many to be a blueprint for the future of sports streaming.
If this copyright battle is an indication of future plans for the Association, it would continue the migration for sports towards streaming. While the NBA is not likely to completely separate itself from longtime broadcasters TNT and ABC/ESPN anytime soon, by making more options available to fans via streaming, the league would certainly be opening up a new chapter.
NBA League Pass
For fans of the NBA, the various League Pass services offer the opportunity to follow one team or the entire league with every game (blackout restrictions apply). Prices and features vary greatly, depending on what you’d like to watch.
Subscriptions include Home and Away broadcasts, Mobile View, plus additional languages and camera angles. You’ll also get in-stream advanced statistics so you can check the box score and get live stats on players and teams without ever leaving the stream.
The NBA offers three plans: “Team Pass” ($13.99) provides great options if you only want to follow a single team.
“League Pass” ($14.99) lets you see every game across the entire league.
The “League Pass Premium” ($19.99) plan provides the option to watch on 2 devices without commercials.
NBA League Pass is also available as an Amazon Prime Video channel.