Viacom18 picks up NBA media rights for three years

Viacom18, billionaire Mukesh Ambani-controlled entertainment network, is aggressively building a formidable sports content pipeline ahead of the launch of its sports channels next year.

The network has signed a three-year deal with the American professional basketball league, the NBA (National Basketball Association), and will get exclusive telecast and streaming rights of the weekly live games, NBA All-Star, the NBA Play-In Tournament, the NBA Playoffs and the Finals.

Viacom18 will also show daily highlights and create original NBA-themed programming that will run on a number of channels across its network.

ET first reported that Viacom18 had picked up the rights for FIFA World Cup 2022—scheduled to be played in Qatar at the end of next year—for a whopping $55 million.

The company, which in September hired former Star Sports ad sales head Anil Jayaraj as CEO for the sports business, also has the rights for a clutch of popular properties including Italy’s popular football league Serie A, Spanish football league La Liga, French football league the League 1, ATP Masters (tennis) and Abu Dhabi T10 (cricket).

Incidentally, the NBA and Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), which owned the rights for almost a decade (since 2012), did not renew their deal last year. Ultimately, the NBA managed to sign Star Sports for airing the playoffs and the finals, two months after the season began.

The deal with Viacom18 will kick-start with the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Season in 2021-22.

Viacom18 will provide coverage of the NBA’s regular season and marquee events in English and Hindi through its television channels Vh1 and MTV, and on the digital platforms VOOT and Jio TV.

“While sports are the biggest whitespace that we are entering, to build a truly inclusive and differentiated proposition, we need to look at diverse sporting events from across the globe,” said Jayaraj. “Basketball is a sport that is increasingly gaining attention and affinity in India. Through this partnership with the NBA, not only do we want to make basketball mainstream, but also build its lifestyle appeal among sports fans.”

The NBA has been working towards popularising basketball in India. It organised two games in the country in 2019. It also signed Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh as the brand ambassador for India in September and announced a collaboration with Lakmé Fashion Week.

Sunny Malik, head of global content and media distribution at NBA India, said that basketball’s popularity in India continues to grow, and by offering a range of NBA programming on Viacom18 in both English and Hindi, the league is looking forward to reaching and inspiring “millions of new and existing NBA fans” across the country.


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